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Graveyard grotesques: Manhattan’s own Hogwarts decaying gargoyles abandoned

Their petrified faces are both terrifying and captivating – but these gargoyles are not decoration on some of Europe’s most stunning Gothic architecture. Instead they are scattered among the overgrown weeds of a grotesque graveyard in upper Manhattan.

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Tucked away among towering buildings in Harlem, the graveyard for the statues has gone under the radar for years behind The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York.

The figurines date back to the early 1900s when they were first installed on buildings by architect George Post to serve as both decoration and to protect the buildings from the elements, Gordon Gebert, Dean of The Bernard & Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, explained to

Thousands of the grotesques – which are not technically gargoyles because they do not have a water spout – were built from terracotta because it was lighter than stone.

‘They didn’t really understand it as a building material and were trying to understand how to best use it and what its characteristics were. But it was much less expensive and they knew they could form it,’ Gebert said.

‘What made terracotta great at the time was that there was a glaze on it to keep moisture and other elements from seeping inside of the material. But the architecture at the time did not like for the grotesques and other pieces to be shiny, so he had everything sandblasted.’ 


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