Two beautiful mystery signs on a Flatiron facade

Lots of older New York buildings have stylized signs that contain the building’s street address.

But none are as unusual and mysterious as the two signs affixed to the facade of 144 Fifth Avenue, a four-story, late 19th century walkup near 19th Street.

“One Hundred Forty Four” the first one playfully proclaims. “Fifth Avenue” reads the second sign.

Both signs look like medallions or shields, yet the numerals and letters seem inspired by Art Nouveau—a type of design popular in the early 20th century in Europe that didn’t quite take off the same way in New York.

Art Nouveau borrows its twists and curves from nature, and each sign has what looks like flowers drooping at the bottom.

Who added these to the building? It’s a mystery. (At left, 144 Fifth Avenue in 1940.)

However, at the turn of the century the building was occupied by a furniture dealer and decorator, according to the Evening World. Later it housed an art gallery called Cottier & Co.

Perhaps one of these artistically minded occupants thought to create the signs, which blend in behind the fire escape and are almost impossible to see.

[Third photo: NYC Tax Photo Department of Records]

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3 Responses to “Two beautiful mystery signs on a Flatiron facade”

  1. Two beautiful mystery signs on a Flatiron facade | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] Source: FS – NYC Real Estate Two beautiful mystery signs on a Flatiron facade […]

  2. alaspooryorick Says:

    from the playful variations of the letters, it appears they were incised freehand in the terra cotta (?) before kiln firing. other details are uniform–stamped or from molds, I venture.

  3. David H Lippman Says:

    We have great terra-cotta in New York.

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