During a recent tour of Herrick, Feinstein’s New York City artifacts, Belinda Schwartz, chair of the law firm’s real estate department, told Big Law Business about the inspiration she and her fellow lawyers draw from the collection on display throughout their Park Avenue office. “It is the kind of art that, when you look up from the table, or from your work, it reminds you that there is something practical, something that is really the thing that you’re working on, it’s not just theoretical,” she said.
Herrick was formed as a real estate law firm in 1928, and is a New York City institution, having advised on some of the city’s most significant real estate projects including the New York Yankees and New York Giants financing of both the Yankee and MetLife stadiums. The firm also has a niche but illustrious lost art practice, and helped a family recoup a collection from a Vienna museum after they had been forced to relinquish the art to Nazis in the Holocaust era.
In a nod to these marquee practice areas, Herrick has created a collection, within its New York City headquarters, that features prized real estate artifacts representing different moments from the city’s history. The collection was started more than thirty years ago by the firm’s former managing partner Ed Abramson, and includes over 70 pieces from bygone eras.
Blake Eastman, who handles media relations for Herrick, provided us with descriptions of the artifacts featured in our video above.
Woolworth Building Copper Finial
- The original finial from the top of the building, which was the tallest point in New York City from 1913 until the construction of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings.
- A scale model created for J. & P. Coates Company, a British thread company that began operating in the U.S. in 1864. The business had offices in the Empire State Building.
Copper Ornamental Lion
- From the cornice of the Hotel Commodore at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The building was stripped to its structure by Donald Trump in 1978, his first development project in Manhattan, and became the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Coney Island Ride Board
- A painted wood ride board, circa 1897, from Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. Steeplechase Park was named in honor of Coney Island’s horse racing tradition.
Coney Island Steeplechase Horse Head
- The steeplechase was a six-track, gravity-driven ride with two people to a wooden horse. Riders would race to the finish on an undulating track that circled the grounds. In the 1960s, the park was purchased by Fred Trump. Trump didn’t open it for the 1965 season, and the following year, amid efforts to landmark the park, he threw a “demolition party” where people were invited to throw bricks at the facade of Steeplechase.
IRT Wooden Ticket Box
- An oak and glass ticket box used by the Interborough Rapid Transit System for collecting fares. The IRT opened in 1904, running from City Hall to 145th Street, and for the first 44 years, the price was a nickel.
Cast Iron Boxers
- Section of a decorative railing from the Police Gazette headquarters (338 Pearl Street). Each section of the fence illustrated a different sporting event. This one is believed to show a famous fight between John L. Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett. The National Police Gazette was the forerunner of the men’s lifestyle magazine, the illustrated sports weekly, and the “girlie/pin-up” magazine.
1940s Era Traffic Light
- New York had no traffic lights until 1920, when a series of lights went up down the middle of Fifth Avenue. The design of the first permanent traffic lights were a wooden shed on a latticework of steel, from which a police officer changed signals. More ornate traffic lights, including this one, followed.
Harvard Club Slate Chalkboard
- Used to schedule squash matches at the Harvard Club. The board was given to Herrick by the president of the Harvard club, who was also the president of New York Federal Savings Bank.
According to recent reports in legal news publications, it’s possible that this artifacts collection could find a new home in 2017. Herrick has reportedly been in discussions to merge with Crowell & Moring of Washington, D.C. although the firm did not share any news with us on the development.
There are more than 70 American law firms, with collections ranging from 50 to 1,400 works, according to The New York Times, which looked at law firms listed in the International Directory of Corporate Art Collectors. Does your law firm have an art collection you’d like to share with Big Law Business? Write to us at BigLawBusiness@bna.com.