Ordinary fire escapes—or romantic balconies?

Used for everything from storage to urban gardening to hanging laundry to sleeping, fire escapes have been mandated on New York City buildings since 1867.

And while the typical design features a plain iron railing stretching the length of two apartment windows, some are more enchanting.

Like these spiral fire escapes on the facade of the circa-1880 Murray Hill Hotel, which once stood on Park Avenue and East 40th Street. Berenice Abbott took the photo in 1935.

They’re more like romantic balconies than functional building architecture.

These Lower East Side tenements are also adorned with romantic fire escapes—single window balconies with whimsical iron ornamentation. Rickety and rusty, probably. But also very charming.

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6 Responses to “Ordinary fire escapes—or romantic balconies?”

  1. Paul Says:

    I took this intriguing fire escape in West Harlem:

    Half Circle Of Escape

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I love that–the fire escape maker got very creative.

  3. Nabe News: March 22 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] charming side of fire escapes – tenement balconies [Ephemeral […]

  4. Tom B Says:

    There are fire escapes on 22 Central Park South. I can not find anything about this building. Maybe owned by The Plaza. Is it a rental, condo or co-op?

  5. Naomi Says:

    I love the fire escapes – they are the icons of the lower east side. thanks for the pics

  6. [PHOTO] Tenements of Manhattan, New York City « A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] are short compared to New York City’s; the famous tenements with their characteristic fire escapes scattered across Manhattan, from the Lower East Side to Harlem, are easily at least double the […]

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