The money motifs of a defunct 42nd Street bank

Bowerysavingsbank42ndstToday, 110 East 42nd Street is the elegant restaurant Cipriani’s.

But beginning in 1923, the building at this address served as the midtown branch of the Bowery Savings Bank.

On a street packed with lovely, innovative buildings, this one is worth a long look.

With its Romanesque arches and pillars, it’s a true cathedral of commerce.

BowerysavingsmanwithsackEven more impressive are the stone-carved figures and motifs that symbolize money.

They’re endlessly fascinating. Two grotesques face each other over a doorway: one carries a sack of money, the other has his hand out. Beehives and squirrels with nuts signal savings.

One carving depicts a woman holding an open jewelry box. Another has a man holding a sailing ship.


Some of the carvings are pretty bizarre. Along an entrance, a rat bites the foot of a man holding a beehive; in another image, a dead rat hangs from a rope. What’s this about?

BowerybankdeadratAt the top of a pillar is a carving of a bull, a man holding keys, and a woman with a bounty of goods.

The bull “symbolizes determination and reliability, the keys, guardianship, and the cornucopia, harvest and abundance,” states Marcantonio Architects blog.

“There also seems to be a native quality to the feathered leaves and the braided rope holding them together.”

Collectively, the images “convey lightheartedness through the details which are teeming with life and imagination, and, in light of recent events in the world of finance, a touch of irony as well,” the blog continues.

Above the entrance is the bank’s very old-school, humble motto: “A mutual institution chartered 1834 to serve those who save.”


Sounds very quaint to contemporary ears used to thinking of banks as agents of corruption.

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3 Responses to “The money motifs of a defunct 42nd Street bank”

  1. thegreenockian Says:


  2. arcruz34481 Says:

    Reblogged this on She Blogs Daily and commented:
    A lot of the old New York buildings that were once created specifically for one purpose now have lives as new businesses but still reveal traces of their past lives through their architecture.

  3. What the figures on the doors of a Third Avenue Gap store tell us about the building | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] beehive is a traditional symbol of thrift, one found on the remains of other former bank buildings across […]

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