By Carter B. Horsley
Almost everybody loves New
York City's old "bishop's crook" street lights and are
happy that they are reappearing and replacing the minimalist "goose-necks"
in some neighborhoods, but street lights, which overhang streets
rather than sidewalks are mostly for cars, not real, honest pedestrians,
to say nothing of residents on the street.
To the rescue, of course, are
lights on, as opposed to in, individual buildings. Sadly, not
every building has an illuminated top to say nothing of an illuminated
bottom, but some of the better apartment buildings, especially
pre-wars, have lights by their entrances, usually mounted, like
sconces, on the walls on either side of the entrance.
These lights generally are
rather unobstrusive and provide only minimal illumination, enough,
say, to discern which is the front-door key, or to read front-page
newspaper headlines while waiting for your date to come downstairs,
or to see which side of the matchbook to strike when lighting
up, or in thriller movie fashion pretending to light up, a cigarette.
The city's chandelier crowd,
however, deserves better and the Sherry-Netherland Hotel at 781
Fifth Avenue at 59th Street delivers. When not checking out the
time at its impressive clock stanchion, just cast one's eyes back
towards the building and upwards.
You won't be able to see its
spectacular spire, but you will be engaged, a bit frightfully,
by its glorious hanging lanterns that are suspended from the large
mouths of large, New York-size dragons. Staring down these dragons
is probably the New York equivalent of Rocky dancing on the steps
of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Just be sure not to let your
children see them, or they won't be satisfied with the available
dragons at F.A.O. Schwarz toy store just down the avenue.
A few blocks north, 820 Fifth
Avenue, one of the city's most elegant, pre-war apartment buildings,
sports an attractive pair of hanging lanterns. The building was
designed by Starrett & Van Vleck and erected in 1916.
Further north at 1001 Fifth
Avenue across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the 1979
limestone-clad, 22-story apartment building designed by Philip
Johnson that is most famous for its "false-front" roof
treatment but is notable also for a quite handsome pair of hanging
lanterns flanking its entrance that demonstrate that detailing
was not a totally lost art in the post-war era.