Gilded Age New York’s lovely mermaid clock

Lots of New York buildings feature a clock on the facade.

But one of the most unique is this clock, supported by two mermaids, at the top of Gilsey House—an 1871 cast-iron beauty with a mansard roof and all kinds of ornamental touches.

In the late 19th century, the popular Gilsey Hotel, on the northeast corner of Broadway and 29th Street, was smack in the city’s theater district. 

But as the theater district moved uptown, the fortunes of this stretch of Broadway faded, and the hotel became a loft building.

Since the late 1970s, it’s been a co-op residence in a no-man’s-land best known for its knockoff jewelry and perfume wholesalers. But the neighborhood is primed for a comeback; the hipster Ace Hotel recently opened across the street.

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3 Responses to “Gilded Age New York’s lovely mermaid clock”

  1. T.J. Connick Says:

    Doing some reading about Peter Gilsey, it comes as a welcome discovery to learn that you have an entry.

    Gilsey parlayed a nose for location and long decades of success as a tobacconist into a couple of remarkable buildings. The Gilsey Building, built in 1853 at the southwest corner of Broadway and Cortlandt, was also an “ironclad”. D.D. Badger did the ironwork, and was engaged again by Gilsey in 1871 for the work shown to good effect by your well-chosen picture of the clock. The first commission did a lot to establish Badger’s fame, while Gilsey occupied the corner shop, where he continued his successful retail trade in tobacco.

    The six-story building will also show in searches and atlases under the names Bendedict Building and Wessells Building. Like your entertaining entry about the “holdout” around which Macy’s built their 34th Street store, Gilsey’s downtown iron-front is better remembered as a nuisance than as pioneering champion of iron’s possibilities. Francis Kimball’s City Investing Building was contorted into a peculiar shape because the owners of the building refused to sell in 1906.

    Don’t know for sure, but I suspect that it stayed around until the entire block (including the Singer Building) was razed to make way for the stolid, unlovable US Steel Building.

  2. Mike McDonald Says:

    Hello, I want thank you so much for this information about the Gilsey Building, which was responsible for the odd, “L-Shape’ of the City Investing Building. Until today, I had never know the actual identity of the little old building responsile for this or anything abut it. I love architecture, especially rare and too oft forgotten ‘jewels’ of another age. I worked for many years at One Liberty Plaza and have seen countless photos of the Singer Tower, the City Investing Buildng and now, I know somethiing of the Gilsey Building, thans to you.

  3. A streetcar, a drunk, a fight, and murder in 1871 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The streetcar carrying the three traveled up Broadway. At about 29th Street — as it passed the then-new Gilsey House (right), a hotel and now an apartment house still standing today — Jennie went on the car’s outside platform to look at the clock. […]

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