The four-faced street clock of East 79th Street

Few things are as charming in New York as an old-fashioned street clock, and this four-faced brass beauty with the beehive-like knobs on the top and bottom is a sight to behold.

It’s affixed to a four-story building on First Avenue and 79th Street, an unusual place for such a lovely street clock.

They’re typically found anchored to stately or elegant buildings—hotels, luxury stores, and insurance headquarters.

Clocks are emblems of stability and certainty, like the 1853 clock carried by Atlas at the entrance to Tiffany & Co on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. There’s also the 1909 cast-iron sidewalk clock on Fifth and 23rd Street, once at the front of the posh Fifth Avenue Hotel.

But the one on 79th Street is in a low-key neighborhood, and the little building it hangs off of looks like a former tenement. Who put it there?

A bank did, and it dates to at least the 1930s. This 1951 photo above reveals that the building was a branch of Manufacturers Trust Company, a bank that began in Brooklyn in the 1850s.

Manufacturers Trust Company still had the bank in 1982, per this ad from New York magazine that year. In the 2000s it was a short-lived restaurant spinoff of Agata & Valentina, the specialty food store across the street. At some point it was also a rug store.

Today, it’s a Vitamin Shoppe franchise. Amazingly, the clock has managed to remain a lovely jewel on this quiet corner that still tells the time.

This page of street clocks contains an image from 2011 of the clock that’s clearer than mine.

[Third photo: MCNY 1951, x2010.7.1.9746]

Tags: , , , ,

7 Responses to “The four-faced street clock of East 79th Street”

  1. Ricky Says:

    It looks more like a artichoke than a beehive to me. Artichokes are symbols of hope, peace, and prosperity. The last being perfect for a bank.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Good eye, I think you are right!

  3. Mike Ghelardi Says:

    You have a great eye for NYC details and I am always impressed by what you see that I don’t see. Thanks you so much.

    One correction. You refer to the building at the NW corner of 1st Ave and 79th as a tenement. My daughter in high school had a friend whose family lived on the entire 2nd floor. She was there and said it was wonderful. They have moved on, but I am sure they’d be miffed to hear it referred to as a tenement!

    Thanks for all you do, making the city so much more interesting that it would be without you.

    Mike Ghelardi, NYC

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks Mike! I agree it’s not a tenement; I thought that it looked like a former tenement, based on the size and shape and neighborhood, but it’s definitely been renovated and is probably pretty nice inside.

  5. David H Lippman Says:

    Glad it still works.

  6. francie28 Says:

    The link to the page of clocks doesn’t work. Says page not available.

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: