Friday, August 17, 2007

It's All Greek To Me

Bowery Savings Bank
now Capitale
130 Bowery
(between Grand and Broome)
McKim, Mead & White
sculptures by Frederick MacMonnies

What better way to say permanence, stability, strength than by adopting the monumental architecture of the ancient Greeks? Spinning the ideals of Greek democracy and egalitarian representation into capitalism and free-enterprise, 19th-century industrialists and financiers built "temples" to their own businesses, complete with mythological iconography rooted in the classics.

In the pediment of this building two figures created by Frederick MacMonnies">Frederick MacMonnies flank a substantial clock. Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom and Justice, reclines opposite Hercules, the powerful warrior, surounded by two tame lions. The message (which 19th and 20th century Americans would have understood) was clear: Wisdom demands that you depost your money in an institution as strong and ferocious as Hercules.

Wisdom and strength gave way to partying, however, in the 1990's, as the bank became an "event" space, a rental hall for private functions.