August 18, 2014 - Comments Off on A Look Back at the New York Art Deco Scavenger Hunt—And Why You Can’t Miss The Next One
My love for all things Jazz Age made taking part in the New York Art Deco Scavenger Hunt a no-brainer. I've participated in and enjoyed Open House New York weekend tours, talks, and open studios in the past, and given the opportunity to discover and learn about important NYC historical architectural landmarks, with the option to do so on bike, I couldn't pass it up!
I teamed up with a couple of my favorite art & design exploration buddies (being a cyclist was also a must). My friend Walter who is an architect and fellow swing dancer was immediately game. Glen, the guy who makes the Nicole Lenzen website and brand collateral look amazing, was our team art director, and was the one who discovered the outrageous fashion crime story of the Straw Hat Riot, which became our team name and photo theme.
American Radiator Building on Bryant Park
Quick sidetrack, because you've all got to know about the Straw Hat Riot if you don't already. In the early 20th century, there was an unofficial style law created that straw hats could not be worn after September 15th. If you were unfortunate enough to don this fashion faux pas, you were at least looking at being bullied for your mishap. Going even further, it became a tradition for others to knock your straw hat off and stomp it into the ground. Unbelievably, this devolved into a two day riot in New York in 1922, even stopping traffic on the Manhattan Bridge. To save themselves the risk of attack, people promptly made the switch to felt hats when the 15th came around.
Straw Hat Riot News Clipping
Back to the hunt at hand. The event was a great way for participants to get familiar with some of the lesser-known architecture in the five boroughs. We can all spot the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings from a fuzzy, half-focused photo, but you'd be surprised to know that you probably live close to some beautiful architecture of the same decade. We discovered 60 buildings on our one-day jaunt around town. Each landmark was revealed to us through riddle-like clues, in true scavenger hunt form. Each clue was worth a certain number of points, meaning the teams to bring in the highest scores took home the prizes. Here are some examples of the clues we had to crack:
- Exuberant polychrome and terra cotta facade features flamingos, fountains and sunbursts—but it's not in Miami. It's one of the first Deco apartment buildings in the Bronx.
- Luxury ocean liners were the greatest Deco ambassadors of the '20s and '30s. This house of worship prominently displays the grandiose medallion doors of a French line icon. Take a photo in front of the doors. (Brooklyn)
- This 1930 Art Deco theater was one of only ten in the country that had two giant organs. Talk about impressive! (Staten Island)
- This building in central Jamaica used brightly colored terra cotta panels created by sculptor Rene Chambellan to form a unique crown and additional embellishments. (Queens)
- This main entrance, marked with the numerals "405," is one of the world's best examples of Art Deco's emphasis on geometry and the clean surface of new materials. Take a photo by the entrance. (Manhattan)
- This gleaming stainless steel bas relief, proudly designed over the main entryway of an iconic New York landmark, shows the speed at which news travels. (Manhattan)
- As construction began in 1929, an intense rivalry developed between the creators of this building and the Chrysler Building to see which would take the title of the tallest building in the world.
- With 90 percent glass, this building's curtain walls of metal, glass, and terra cotta were erected long before the curtain walls of metal and glass became the fashion of Midtown. (Manhattan)
- New Yorker Al Pacino once attended this Bronx junior high that towers above other Bronx schools. (Bronx)
- This building was built in 1929, but its starring role in a 1984 movie made it a New York pop-culture icon that is now often referred to by the film's name. (Manhattan)
Even if our lack of expertise in Art Deco architecture kept us from winning any prizes, at least we had an amazing time discovering these hidden gems, and took some great photos. You can check even more of these out and relive our day on our team's Instagram page.