Grotesque faces staring at you at Hunter College

The East 68th Street campus of Hunter College doesn’t look very collegiate, with its skywalks and square modernist buildings.

But there’s a wonderful exception to all those concrete boxes: Thomas Hunter Hall at 934 Lexington Avenue.

(Thomas Hunter was the first president of this former all-female teachers college founded in 1869, when it was known as Normal College.)

Designed in 1912 by Charles B.J. Snyder, the architect of so many of New York’s elementary and high schools at the turn of the century, this English Gothic castle of a college building features cathedral windows and rooftop turrets that give the impression of a Medieval fortress.

And if you look closely, you’ll see plenty of Gothic-style faces staring back at you.

The facade and twin spires flanking the entrance are packed with grotesques—some scary, some goofy with a sense of humor (like the guy in the glasses above, who has a pencil behind his ear).

Hunter College is part of the City University of New York, and it’s not the only CUNY building decorated with unique, cheeky grotesques.

Visit CUNY’s campus on 137th Street in Harlem—a Gothic architecture lover’s dream—and you’ll encounter the same kind of fun and mischievous characters, like this one, appropriately reading a book. (This is a college, after all!)

[Top photo: Hunter College]

Tags: , , , , ,

15 Responses to “Grotesque faces staring at you at Hunter College”

  1. Untapped Staff Reads: Prospect Park Gets Goats, The Grotesque Faces at Hunter College | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] Grotesque faces staring at you at Hunter College [Ephemeral New York]: The East 68th Street campus of Hunter College doesn’t look very collegiate, with its skywalks and square modernist buildings. But there’s a wonderful exception to all those concrete boxes: Thomas Hunter Hall at 934 Lexington Avenue. […]

  2. John G. Caulfield Says:

    Actually, they are all Professors of mine from the Philosophy Department in the 1970s. From top to bottom, they are: Charles Breyer, Peter Caws, John Lando, and Mark Weinstein.

  3. Zoe Says:


    “Normal College” What did that mean then Ephemeral? Something different than at present?

    Gargoyle in glasses! Lol. Such a clever concept.

    John G. Caulfield: all your profs. 🙂

    Beautiful building… Hope it stays free of those evil cantilevered monstrosities taking over… such as over the Art Students League…

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out the origin of the word “normal” as in “normal college,” and it apparently comes from a French teaching tradition founded in the 17th century, “Ecole Normale.” That’s about as far as I can get with it!

  5. Miggie Warms Says:

    This building housed Hunter College High School for decades. The address was 930 Lexington Avenue, as thousands of alumnae (it was a girls’ school until after it left that building) will attest. Has the post office really changed the address???

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I went by this Hunter College page to get the address:

  7. leslie healy Says:

    I attended this castle-like building for 6 years in the 1960s, when it was still the all girls high school for gifted young ladies, Hunter College High School – it was never “normal.”

  8. bo Says:

    Re: “Normal”
    A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Most such schools are now denominated “teachers’ colleges”.

  9. Maureen OConnor Leach Says:

    Teachers’ colleges were designed to educate high school graduates in the standard methods of teaching. Educational norms were to be taught thus the schools were called normal schools

  10. Zoe Says:

    Thanks Ephemeral & everyone for explaining what ‘Normal Schools’ were.

    I saw the Wikipedia page also inc. all the international versions. It makes sense re. the ‘norms’. My grandmother went to a one room school in the old part of Berlin (similar to LES) between 1900 & 1904 when she left to become a posh dressmaker shop apprentice. She told me that by age 14 she was teaching the younger children there & that was how it operated; w/ older students helping the female teacher teach the younger students. (The public schools apparently had separate classes or whole schools for male/female children). She wanted to be a teacher but had to leave school to help her mother — who had eleven children — w/ finances. So obviously the normalisation of lessons & formalised methods of teaching had not fully trickled down to poorer & working class neighbourhoods in large cities.

    I love the tribe that Ephemeral has gathered here!

    I think it’s great that this lintel has this now very surreal looking message on it w/ the word ‘Normal’. It gives it a fairytale air.

  11. David Lippman Says:

    They look just like my school teachers….

  12. subterraneansatsea Says:

    Amazing building, I do miss NYC walks!

  13. krishnakumarsinghblog Says:


  14. takeaways gloucester Says:

    chinese take away

    301 Moved Permanently

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: