What the bronze reliefs on 195 Broadway mean

Inspired by ancient Greece, the 27-story office tower at 195 Broadway features a marble lobby and interior classical columns.

The building, completed in 1922, also paid tribute to what qualified as modern communication at the time. This was the new headquarters for AT&T, after all, and company heads topped the tower on the Fulton Street side with a sculpture called “Genius of Telegraphy,” a 24-foot winged male figure cast in bronze holding bolts of electricity in its hand.

“Gold Boy,” as that statue was nicknamed, is no longer there. But four bronze reliefs on the facade of 195 Broadway still exist. Instead of paying tribute to modern communications, they hark back to ancient times.

The four reliefs are collectively titled “The Four Elements,” an early work by sculptor Paul Manship, who designed the Prometheus sculpture in Rockefeller Plaza.

Manship honored the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. According to Landmarks Preservation Committee report from 2006 (the year 195 Broadway was deemed a landmark site), the panels there today are copies of the originals.

They’re somewhat racy for the 1920s, with topless female figures. And it’s a little strange to see them outside the latest branch of trendy retailer Anthropologie, which now occupies the ground floor.

But the Art Deco touches—and the elements they celebrate—make these reliefs an inspiring break along the canyons of Lower Broadway.

[Top photo: Blue Rock Construction]

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6 Responses to “What the bronze reliefs on 195 Broadway mean”

  1. Zoé Says:

    These are simply astonishing! I’m sure anthropology was thrilled to get this space. Given their aesthetic.

    Do we know when the reliefs were replaced & why & who reproduced them? Could it be that they were just taken down & cleaned & polished & repatinated? That seems more likely. That they got tarnished & the patina wore off on sections.

    Does the sculpture exist somewhere else? How long was it at this address?

    Sorry for the interrogation – lol.

  2. The Briefly for June 11, 2018 – No SHSAT Decision This Year, ICE Detainee Given Stay, The Most Confusing Traffic Light In The City, and more – The Briefly - Your Daily NYC News Digest Says:

    […] New York dives into the significance behind the bronze relief sculptures at 195 Broadway. The building was completed in 1922 and became the new headquarters for AT&T. There are four […]

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I know very little about the panels, unfortunately! I couldn’t find anything from Manship on what inspired him, which would have been fascinating.
    The sculpture was taken down in the 1980s and removed to AT&T headquarters in New Jersey, after AT&T left the building. According to Wikipedia, it’s now in Dallas.

  4. David H Lippman Says:

    That’s the building Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox works in in “Wall Street.”

  5. The remains of a defunct downtown subway exit | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] exhaustive New York City subway archive at nycsubway.org, it appears to have once took riders into 195 Broadway, the former AT&T Building. It’s directly across the street from Fulton Place and is noted […]

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