In the Astor Place Subway Station
New York City,
~ I present ~
Astor Place Subway Beaver Plaque Nr S1
Cast by Randall
The beaver design in bas relief is after a design by Grueby
Faience Co 1904. Grueby custom made tiles and ornaments for the NYC subway stations, and at the Astor Place station these beaver plaques were installed
in tribute to John Jacob Astor who made his fortune with beaver pelts
in the 19th century, and for whom Astor Place was named.
The Interborough Rapid Transit Subway, or IRT, was the first subway company in New York City, and opened on October 27th, 1904
Astor Place station was built in large part under what had been private property along the west side of Astor Place. Several buildings were demolished to make way for the station accounting for today's odd shape of Astor Place.
The heavy brick-faced square columns on the downtown platforms support the old John Wanamaker (now K-Mart) store above them. The octagon windows on the brick wall of the platform were the store's showcases. K-Mart has reopened a direct entrance to their store from the southbound platform, which had been sealed for many years after the demise of the Wanamaker's store at that location.
Station Decoration. Plaques: Beavers. Grueby Faience Co. 1904. Name tablets: Grueby Faience Co. 1904.From forgotten NY;
The beavers whose pelts made Astor rich are depicted in the station by Grueby. This is the first station on the line in which a graphic element of this type was executed: there would be many more in the IRT and continuing on new BMT construction on into the 1920s. While later stations would use mosaics, though, here faience was used, and you can see what we meant by rich color. The beaver, resting on a tree stump and gnawing on a trunk, is surrounded by the bellflower motif and also by the precise geometric shapes, squares and diamonds, that are also a hallmark of original subway stations: the diamond surrounded by four squares is repeated at other stations further up the line. At 22.5x14 inches these plaques are the largest in the system (excluding station name plaques), and the ten-inch borders give them added size.
Extant tiles in the subway station
Survey Number HAER NY-122, pp. 365-412
Historic American Engineering Record
National Park Service
Department of the Interior
Washington, DC. 20240
There were 49 stations on the Contract One subway, thirty-seven underground and twelve above. The underground stations, except for City Hall. No two station plans were exactly alike, but the standard local station was a "T" shape, with "arms elongated parallel to the track," and "stem under the street transverse to the main route.
The raw brick walls and concrete ceilings were then turned over to Heins and LaFarge to be "beautified." The decorative scheme that they devised was certainly influenced by Parsons, for it is again similar to the Paris Chemin De Per De Sceaux in its system of wall division and ornamentation. Heins and LaFarge's plans were subject to the final approval of Parsons, who delegated authority to D. L. Turner, assistant engineer in charge of stations for the Rapid Transit Subway Construction Company. August Belmont also oversaw station decoration; he approved of the first completed station at Columbus Circle, but complained of the use of too much brick at Astor Place, 50th Street, and 66th Street.
In general, the station finish consisted of a sanitary cove base that made the transition from floor to wall, upon which rested a brick or marble wainscot for the first two and one-half feet or so of wall area. This wainscot was applied to withstand the hard usage that the lower wall would be subjected to. The wainscot was completed by either a brick or marble cap, and the remainder of the wall area was covered with three by six-inch white glass tiles, completed near the ceiling by a cornice or frieze. The wall area was divided into fifteen foot panels, the same spacing as the platform columns, by the use of colored tiles or mosaic "in order to relieve the monotony that a plain-tiled surface would present." The full station name appeared on large tablets of either mosaic tile, faience, or terra-cotta at frequent intervals, while smaller name plaques were incorporated into the cornice every fifteen feet.
A conscious effort was made by the architects to create a distinct wall treatment for each station, both to relieve monotony and assist in the identification of different locations, and the "extent of the decoration varies with the relative importance of the stations." Wherever possible, a local association was worked into the decorative scheme, such as the seal of Columbia University at 116th and Broadway. Heins and LaFarge used a number of different details to add interest to the stations. All of them were classically derived but designed with considerable artistic license. Examples of these details include the cornices at all stations, garlands such as at 116th and Broadway, cartouches such as at Spring Street and along the Lenox Avenue line, and flat pilasters and Greek Frets such as at 79th and 86th Streets.
The quality of materials specified by Heins and LaFarge for use in the stations was extremely high. The wainscot was constructed of either buff-colored Roman brick or marble. The vent grills and light fixtures were of bronze, and the ticket booths of oak. Encaustic mosaic tile was used for the color bands and name tablets. Architectural details were executed in either glazed terra-cotta or in faience for the more important stations. Faience is terra-cotta with a more refined glaze requiring two firings which produce an opaque mat glaze. The materials were of such high quality, in fact, that their use had to be curtailed because of expense. Parsons noted in his construction diary, February 27, 1902, that he discussed reducing the expense of stations with LaFarge. By January, 1903 Parsons advised a simpler treatment for stations, and by the next month he ordered that the use of marble should be discontinued except for those stations already contracted for.
Grueby Faience Company, Faience Color Scheme:
Blue faience tablets
Light blue tile bands
Blue faience cornice
Blue faience plaques
Marble wainscot cap
Manhattan Glass Tile Company, Tiles
Grueby Faience Company, Faience Color Scheme:
Blue faience tablets
Blue tile bands
Green faieence cornice
Blue faience plaquesHarper's Weekly January 31, 1903 p. 176.
The decorations will be of tiles, faience, and glazed terra-cotta, with the name of the station plainly marked in panels. All the ornamentation has been designed to help the passenger recognize his station without the necessity of listening for the announcement of the of the guard or reading the signs.
Prices include shipping and are shown on each sculpture on the CART PAGES.
I use FEDEX ground service for all shipments in the lower 48 states. I do not ship outside the USA.
If you are looking for something for the garden or to build into a wall, I offer a growing number of hand-pressed, kiln fired red terracotta works. for many reasons, concrete is no longer available.
All of my interior sculptures have a heavy wire embedded on the back to hang them on the wall.
These hand sculpted models are created from scratch by Randall in water based clay, and typically take an average of 20-30 hours to set up, layout and sculpt each master model.
When the clay models are finished, they are permanently captured with silicone mold compounds which can pick up even a fingerprint and faithfully transfer it to a cast made in it. From the molds, interior cast-stone as well as a growing number of kiln fired terracotta sculptures are made available for clients to purchase.
Existing savaged pieces are limited to what happens to be for sale at high prices, often damaged, rarely found in pairs and being typically large in scale (meant to be seen from the street from 5 floors below) they are difficult to display in today's smaller homes and apartments. Instead of making molds of these pieces, Randall creates new original models based on authentic 19th century and early 20th century Victorian, Art Deco and Louis Sullivan style architectural sculptures. While I do have a small number of older designs directly molded from antique pieces, these are being phased out over time as I create my own original models.
By no means! keep in mind- your walls weigh thousands of pounds and support the roof. HOWEVER- do not use plastic or self adhesive picture hangars of any kind, or try to simply put a screw into the thin sheetrock-these will not hold, and are not designed to.
Install your mounting hooks or other hangars into the solid wood STUD inside the wall, these are spaced 16" apart. You should use an anchor rated to hold at least twice the shipping weight of the sculpture.
To show what a sheetrock wall can hold, here is a photo of two shelves I installed on my bedroom wall for original sculptures that I couldn't mount any other way, the brackets are screwed into the wall studs with 3" screws. The weight for the stone and terra-cotta shown-the top shelf; 175# and 125# for the lower shelf- 300# total.