The mysterious names on a midtown building

De Soto. Montcalm. Vespucci. La Salle. Marquette. The names of these men and others are inscribed above the second-floor windows of a building at 840 Eighth Avenue, a pretty typical early 20th century structure at 51st Street.


So who were these guys, and why are their names inscribed on the building?


They were Catholic explorers, missionaries, or war heros who helped settle and strengthen the New World. It makes sense that their names are here, considering that the building was put up in 1925 by the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization, as a hotel and clubhouse.


The Knights of Columbus didn’t have the building for long. It changed hands in 1933 and in the 1960s wound up as a YWCA. Today, it’s senior-citizen home . . . with some illustrious names giving it character.

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