The rats of the Graybar Building

New York City buildings are decorated with images of horses, goats, elephants, birds, even squirrels. But only on the Graybar Building, an office tower next to Grand Central Terminal, will you find rats.

Yep, three cast-metal rats are depicted climbing above the building’s entrance at 420 Lexington Avenue.

So why rats? It’s not clear, but the architects who built the tower in the 1920s seem to be depicting the cone-shaped objects attached to mooring lines of ships that deterred rats from getting on board.

Or maybe it’s some kind of commentary on the rat race of professionals who ply their trades in office buildings like the Graybar every day.

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9 Responses to “The rats of the Graybar Building”

  1. Martha Says:

    See The New Yorker, September 9, 1933, issue, page 10 for a short piece on the Graybar Bldg and its rats.

  2. Joe Says:

    The mooring lines with rat traps that are shown preventing rats from gaining access is because the building is likened to the sta=eamships that Graybar had a small fleet of. Graybar was originally a steamshiop company, hence the mooring lines securing the building to Lexington Avenue.

  3. Fay Says:

    What a pleasure to find this – I thought I knew my New York ephemera and trivia, but I can see I am in for a treat here.

  4. Carey Says:

    I’m working on a book about Grand Central and would love to use this photograph in the book. How can I obtain permission?

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Can you email me off the board? My email is under Contact Ephemeral New York.

  6. In New York City? Here are 29 insider NYC tips | PolicyGenius Says:

    […] this bit of trivia to astound your friends and out-of-town visitors: there are three rats on the Graybar Building just south of Grand […]

  7. 29 insider New York City tips everyone should know Says:

    […] this bit of trivia to astound your friends and out-of-town visitors: there are three rats on the Graybar Building just south of Grand […]

  8. The pretty peafowl on a Madison Avenue building | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Of course, New York building facades are decorated with images to all kinds of animals, from squirrels to lions to elephants to rats. […]

  9. The spider in the web on a 57th street building | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] bats, elephants, rats, rams, horses, squirrels—there’s a Noah’s Ark of animals decorating New York’s […]

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