9 May - 2018

Spotted Around New York: The Pythian Building

Egypt in Manhattan? A colorful Egyptian colonnade, giant urns carried by teams of yellow, red, and green oxen, and Assyrian heads! Not just at the Metropolitan Museum! A glazed blue entry pavilion and a dramatic double-height marble lobby enhanced by a winged sun introduces the 1927 Pythian Building, with the visual sparks of some of the most brilliant multicolored terracotta in New York. Urns lighted by fire adorn the original ink and pencil renderings by architect Thomas Lamb, who designed magnificent movie palaces as well as this Temple for the secret fraternal order of the Knights of Pythias. The decorative magic staffs, halberds, wands, lanterns, and thrones that were left behind in this building suggest props for a Harry Potter reenactment—as well as the stuff or architectural wonder.

All architectural projects reveal unexpected discoveries within their walls and neighborhoods. I came across this unique building while working on a renovation (with the addition of a green roof) of two landmark townhouses nearby. While the Pythians departed in 1958 and the building is now a condominium complex, this Upper West Side neighborhood will always incorporate its history along with change and excitement.



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