Vaulted ceiling loveliness outside a city building

Contemporary government buildings have a reputation for functional ugliness.

MunicipalbuildingceilingBut in 1909, when the newly consolidated city of New York needed more office space, city officials seemed to realize that a forward-thinking metropolis should have triumphant architecture.

So they commissioned the McKim, Mead, and White–designed Manhattan Municipal Building at One Centre Street, which was completed in 1914.

One of the building’s loveliest features is outside: the vaulted ceiling at the south arcade.


Here, surrounding the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge-Chambers Street subway station, are beautiful columns and white Gustavino ceiling tiles.

Look up at them for a brief moment, and you might imagine yourself at an Italian palazzo rather than in Lower Manhattan.


The vaulted ceilings are a reminder of the Gustavino-tiled ceilings of the long-shuttered City Hall subway station, all glorious curves and colors and light.

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16 Responses to “Vaulted ceiling loveliness outside a city building”

  1. Ricky Says:

    This ceiling just might be the only enjoyable part of serving jury duty in NYC.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    yes! And the video with Diane Sawyer, do they still show that?

  3. agardner58 (@agardner58) Says:

    Guastavino also did the Tennis House in Prospect Park, unfortunately it is behind a fence now, but you can still get close enough to see it well.

  4. Gimelgort Says:

    I was married here, stood up for my brother’s wedding here, and while I was waiting, stood up for a stranger’s wedding as well. I wonder if they’re still together…. thanks for the memories, Eph!

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    You’re welcome! I was the witness at my sister’s wedding here. Very sweet experience.

  6. | OF GARDENS Says:

    […] August 14, 2013 by Of Gardens | Leave a comment […]

  7. 14 Beautiful Vintage Subway Entrances in NYC | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] Photo via Ephemeral New York […]

  8. Sara Says:

    Beautiful. The Food Emporium under the 59th St Bridge has a similar ceiling. Does anyone know what the space was originally used for?

    Ephemeral New York is wonderful; thank you for sharing these snippets of history.

  9. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you! I’m curious about the 59th Street ceiling as well, if anyone knows.

  10. Centre Street at Park Row: five views, 150 years | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] newspaper business has long decamped uptown. The Staats-Zeitung building was bulldozed to make way for the New York Municipal Building, opened in 1909. On the left is the lovely New York City Hall of Records, constructed in […]

  11. The whispering gallery in Grand Central Terminal | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] is the whispering gallery. It’s on the lower level outside the Oyster Bar, under beautiful original Gustavino tiles on a low domed […]

  12. Fifth Avenue’s most insane Gilded Age mansion | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] pieces from a French chateau, oak panels from Sherwood Forest, Turkish baths, vaulted corridors lined with Gustavino tile, 11 elevators, a pipe organ, 20-plus servant rooms, and galleries for Clark’s extensive art […]

  13. A glorious 1914 tower symbolizes the united city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] much to love about this triumphant work of architecture: the vaulted entrance with Guastavino ceiling tiles, the bas relief panels, and the gilded copper statue, “Civic Fame” […]

  14. Blue and white tiles line the Queensboro Bridge | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] decorative lampposts at the entrance to the bridge, and vaulted, Cathedral-like ceilings lined with famous Guastavino tiles under the Manhattan-side bridge approach, the commercial space known as […]

  15. The soaring, stunning vaulted ceilings of an East Side Trader Joe’s | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] century, according to Architect Magazine. Grand Central Station’s Whispering Gallery, the Manhattan Municipal Building, and other architectural landmarks of New York’s progressive era also feature Guastavino […]

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