The gods of good health on a Fifth Avenue facade

You could spend hours taking in the visual feast that is the New York Academy of Medicine building on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street.

Completed in 1926, it’s a blend of Romanesque and Byzantine styles with an exterior complete with Latin quotes, figures of gods and goddesses, and some impressive gargoyles and bas reliefs—all apparently relating to health and medicine.

“The exterior features a panoply of medical symbolism, including figures of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine, and his daughter Hygeia, the goddess of health standing watch together over the front door,” states one online source.

Asclepius and Hygeia (top image) are carved into the grand entrance on 103rd Street. They’re united by a medical caduceus with a single snake wrapped around it, a symbol of healing.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with some of the other reliefs—or the cheeky gargoyles. They animals could symbolize medicinal treatments; the figures may be other gods and goddesses.

But all of these symbols, figures, and grotesques were certainly added to the facade with intent.

The New York Academy of Medicine got its start in 1847, founded by a group of prominent city physicians in an era of rampant disease outbreaks, poor nutrition, and a 50 percent mortality rate for babies under age one.

The Academy pioneered the idea of public health—and today they continue to advocate for public health education and reform, particularly with their impressive library.

Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses to “The gods of good health on a Fifth Avenue facade”

  1. Barbara D’Anna Says:

    I was a teacher back in the 1960’s, and worked at PS 171 which is across the street. We would occasionally have lunch in the restaurant of the Academy.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’ve never been inside but I hear the interior is as decorative as the exterior.

  3. http://xiaoyaozhan.top/home.php?Mod=space&uid=366177&Do=profile&from=space Says:

    http://xiaoyaozhan.top/home.php?Mod=space&uid=366177&Do=profile&from=space

    The gods of good health on a Fifth Avenue facade | Ephemeral New York

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: