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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
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Art Deco in the Neighborhood
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Non-Office Buildings
Art Deco in the Neighborhood
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Art deco also becomes very popular for low-scale commercial buildings in New York's local neighborhoods. It was used in particular for building types where it was important to draw attention to the buildings, to try to attract clients to come into the building. One of the major users of art-deco ornament on its buildings were Horn and Hardart Automats. The automat was a popular kind of restaurant where you would actually buy food out of a machine. You put your money into a slot, you opened a little glass-and-bronze door, and you took your sandwich off of this little shelf. Or, if you wanted a cup of coffee, you took a coffee cup, you put a nickel in a slot, you held your coffee underneath a spout that was shaped like a dolphin's head, and the coffee came out. Well, these were early fast-food restaurants that needed to attract large numbers of people to come in, and they used architecture, very pizzazzy architecture, to draw attention.

This is a Horn and Hardart, or it was a Horn and Hardart restaurant on Broadway at about 103rd Street. And it had a giant two-story window on the ground floor. So if you were walking by this building you could look in, and you could see how bright and cheery it was, and how everybody was having a good time, and you would go in and spend some money. But if you were across the street, you could not actually see into that two-story window. So the building is highlighted at the top with polychrome, terra-cotta art-deco ornament, and this ornament drew your attention to the building. So you have these organic and geometric forms in these giant panels over the windows, and at the very top of the building you have this zigzag band, where the zigzags are overlaid over organic flower petals. All this is very colorful; it draws attention to the building and draws you inside the building.

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