by Kevin Walsh

THE famed Silk Clock in the Schwarzenbach Building, 470 Park Avenue South, periodically disappears for repairs, but it was apparently in working order when I passed it on PAS and East 32nd. The clock was designed by Marguerite Zorach for the Seth Thomas Clock Co.and installed in 1926. The Schwarzenbachs were silk dealers and fittingly, the clock features sculpted versions of silkworms (actually caterpillars) and the milkweeds that they eat. Like the bell ringers at Herald Square, this is a moving sculpture: “At every hour on the hour, the wizard Merlin raises his wand and taps the squatting blacksmith on the head, who hammers away at King Arthur’s sword, while the Lady of the Lake rises out of the clock’s case.” (Some report the conically chapaeu’d figure as Zoroaster, but thus spake the NY Times on the Merlin ID.) During one of its repair jobs in 1984, Conrad Milster, famed until recently for his steam whistle concerts on New Year’s Eve for his employer Pratt Institute, fixed the clock. I was glad to see it back in place.

Of course strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! But is ours any better…

East 32nd Street is where Park Avenue South leaves off and Park Avenue begins; the entire avenue was laid out in the 1800s as 4th Avenue, but the north end became Park Avenue and the section between East 17th and 32nd as Park Avenue South gradually, over time. The divider at East 32nd is rather perplexing, as a more logical point for the handoff would seem to be the more important East 34th a couple of blocks away.

The wikipedia Park Avenue article explains this:

The developer Henry Mandel acquired the lots on the eastern side of Fourth Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Street in 1923 under the name “One Park Avenue Corporation”. To ensure his corporate name was accurate, Mandel asked the New York City Board of Aldermen [now the City Council] to move Park Avenue’s southern terminus to 32nd Street. The change went into effect on December 1, 1924, and address numbers along Park Avenue were changed accordingly.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Peter March 14, 2023 - 6:43 pm

One possibility for the location of the “handoff” is that the Park Avenue tunnel’s entrance lane begins at 32nd.

redstaterefugee March 15, 2023 - 12:05 pm

“Strange women… distributing swords…” might explain some recent election outcomes.

philipe March 15, 2023 - 12:21 pm

I used to work on 5th Avenue by 43rd Street. Passed this beauty thousands of times.

Eric Costello March 16, 2023 - 2:56 pm

I had forgotten about this clock, so on my daily walk today, I made sure to pass under it. Must remember to pass it while the hour is chiming.

Chris F March 20, 2023 - 5:05 pm

Never trust a strange watery git…

Edward March 21, 2023 - 10:37 am

Wikipedia has as good an explanation as any as to why 32nd Street became the dividing line between Park Ave and Park Ave South. See the section “Later Years” for details:

Kevin Walsh March 21, 2023 - 2:00 pm

Acknowledged and added.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.