Posts Tagged ‘street clocks of New York City’

The missing terra cotta bank clock on Avenue C

December 12, 2016

It’s a wonderful burst of color among the tenements and occasional weedy lot on Avenue C: a three-story 1920s building with an elaborate terra cotta and tile ornament above the entrance.


Painted in bright green, blue, red, and orange, the ornament—flanked by urns and adorned with an eagle—was supposed to have a clock in the center.

terracottaclockwholebuildingFor years it has been empty, a mosaic-like place holder for a long gone neighborhood time piece.

Street clocks were a popular feature on bank buildings, which is what this 1923 Modernist structure used to be. A branch of The Public National Bank of New York was located here, the northeast corner of Avenue C and Seventh Street, according to a 2008 Landmarks Preservation Committee Report.

Back then, this was a thriving, busy bank in a typical New York working class neighborhood, with “tellers in the monumental banking floor on the ground story,” as the Landmarks report put it.

terracottaclock1983But times and neighborhoods change, and by the 1950s, the building was being used as a nursing home.

In the 1970s, it passed through various hands before getting made over into apartments in the 1980s (at right, pre-makeover, in 1983)

And the missing clock? That’s still a question mark.

Since it’s been MIA so long, it seems doubtful that anyone affiliated with the building has plans to install a replacement inside the empty space.


So it’s left to us to imagine (with the help of old photos of the clock, above) the lost timepiece.

Think of the neighborhood residents who, in an age before smart phones and digital watches, relied on street clocks to keep appointments and know when the next streetcar would appear.

[Third photo: Landmarks Preservation Committee report; fourth photo: NYC Department of Records]