Ghosts of 19th century New York horses

Reminders of the city’s horse-powered past are all over the place. Sometimes a horse head is mounted on the gate of a mews, a tribute to the creature who made his home there.

This one above is at the entrance to Sniffen Court—the pretty, circa-1860s mews-turned-private homes on 36th Street between Lexington and Third Avenue. 

Or the head of an equine sticks out of the facade of an old stable. That’s where this Charles Street beauty keeps watch. Below the head is a faded sign featuring the name of the stable owner, H. Thalman.

Plenty of stable signage can still be found on old buildings, such as this Greenwich Street garage.

What would happen if a resident of Strivers’ Row in Central Harlem (above) decided to ride, not walk, his horse on the path behind the brownstone houses there? 

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13 Responses to “Ghosts of 19th century New York horses”

  1. Jimbo Says:

    A lot of old garages are converted horse and carriage stables. These are extant in Greenwich Village and Gramercy. Times Square area had lots of them.

    One reason why a lot of automobile sales rooms are in the West 50s was due to the presence of so many of these former stables/carriage garages in that area. They just fit in naturally to the carriage trade.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    There are still many over there in the West 50s, home to the horses who pull carriages around Central Park.
    Around six or seven in the evening a bunch of them come to the park via 8th Avenue, clip-clopping along with traffic, for the evening shift.

  3. petey Says:

    many east 70s (around lex-3rd) residences are converted stables, real nyc jackpots if you can get one!

  4. Roo Says:

    “Walk your horses” doesn’t mean dismount and lead them; it refers to gait and speed (i.e. no trotting, cantering, or galloping).

  5. Dan Says:

    Seeing the photos of the horseheads on the building facades brought back a memory of the time in 1989 when I staggered out of the killer last day of the Architect’s Licensing Exam at Pier 88 and walked east. Lo and behold I saw a real horse’s head sticking out of the facade of a building two or three stories up from the street.

    After doing a double-take and confirming that this was indeed a real live horse , I noticed the the inscription on the wall proclaiming the Businesses name and the words “Theatrical Animals” .

    Apparently this one horse was just getting some fresh air thru an open window on a pleasant [for him at least] summer’s eve.

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    I wonder if that place still exists. The horse is gone, 21 years later, but who knows what other theatrical creatures are hanging out there?

  7. Alice Beebe Says:

    The first place I remember living in NYC was on 12th Street near the Hudson river. The police kept their horses in stables down there and we use to watch the police riding the horses in two rows up the street in the morning and come back in the afternoon. When we moved I really missed the horses but you used to see them all over the Village.

  8. Peter Bennett Says:

    One of my favorites on 17th street just west of 6th ave

  9. Mindy Colton Says:

    My Grandfather’s horse auction and training stables were on east 18th and 19th Street. It was called the Bull’s Head Stables and Auctions. He retired and closed down in the early 40’s. His was the last horse sales business in Manhattan. His name was Max Helfstein.

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  13. emexcee Says:

    East 24th St. between lex & 3rd had a few. In fact, there used to be a horse riding gear shop on that block. I have no idea if it’s still there. Baruch college devoured quite a bit of that area.

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