Three Days in Oz - Part III

Cast Iron "Demons" Surrounding the Dakota Apartments (LEO Design)


It never gets old...

There was a time—from the second half of the Nineteenth Century through the first half of the Twentieth Century—when Art and Industry collaborated to produce wonderful mass-produced objets.  Ambitious and beautiful handworks (simultaneously!) enjoyed the very best of artistic design and also the very best of early industrial production methods.  The works of talented Old World sculptors were mass-produced on modern factory lines—built-to-last, produced (reasonably) affordably, and intended to remain beautiful forever.

"The Dakota" apartment building, built along Central Park West in the early 1880's, is surrounded by a "dry moat" (intended to help secure the building and allow natural light into the basement).  A heavy cast iron railing surrounds this moat, supported by several dozen wonderful Renaissance-Style balustrades which feature a "grotesque" face, flanked by pair of winding dragons. Such beautiful sculpted pieces certainly required the hand of a talented designer-artist (and artist-modelmaker).  But, once the original model was completed, the heavy cast iron balustrades could be reproduced by the dozens (or hundreds or thousands).

It was a time when great architects would invest in great design (and great production methods), knowing that the pay-off would come with centuries of great service. The initial investment (certainly costly) would be easily recouped through the economies-of-scale of mass production (and the amortized expense over a centuries-long expected lifespan).  Building something very well today will always be cheaper than building it the same way 50 years from now.

The world has moved-away from such an expectation of permanence.  "Make it cheap" seems to be the theology of modern architects.  Thus, when I see the great taste and craftsmanship of old, I cannot help but stop, appreciate it and shoot a picture of it.

Back to Pittsburgh tomorrow.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248