New York City brownstones don’t come any lovelier than 14 and 15 Gramercy Park South, the combined home of The National Arts Club since 1906.
Flora, fauna, and other ornamentation decorate the warm, handsome buildings. But why are the heads of five literary giants carved into the facade as well?
The names are underneath their sculptural busts: Shakespeare, Dante, Franklin, Milton, and Goethe.
They were among the authors and thinkers whose books were featured in the library of the brownstones’ Gilded Age owner, former New York State governor and 1876 presidential candidate Samuel Tilden.
In the 1870s, Tilden, a wealthy lawyer, commissioned Central Park co-architect Calvert Vaux to combine the two 1840s brownstones into one incredible mansion complete with Gothic Victorian touches, stained glass, and bay windows.
After he died, Tilden’s library, as well as his fortune, helped create the New York Public Library. His homage to five literary legends lives on, greeting passersby on one of the prettiest blocks in the city.