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Auction held for pieces of Manhattan's past

A rare collection of 19th and 20th century

A rare collection of 19th and 20th century artifacts that were rescued over decades from renovations of prominent New York City institutions will be sold at auction by Guernsey's Auction House for Urban Archaeology for five days beginning March 24, 2015. Credit: Guernsey's Auction House

Later this month a unique public auction will allow antiques collectors, architects, designers and private individuals a chance to own not only a vintage treasure but pieces of New York City's past.

A rare collection of 19th and 20th century artifacts including light fixtures, hardware, furniture, fanlight transoms, statuary and even an 8-foot-tall garden gate -- all rescued from renovations of prominent institutions in New York City and around the world -- will be up for bid.

Conducted by Guernsey's Auction House for Urban Archaeology in TriBeCa, the 700 offerings on the block at the March 27 and 28 auction will include the monumental Baptistery Gate that once graced Fifth Avenue's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Also up for bid will be hundreds of items that originated in iconic city landmarks such as the Plaza and St. Regis hotels, the Chrysler and Woolworth buildings, the elegant neoclassic Yale Club and other high profile destinations in the city.

In photos and captions, the auction's hefty catalog describes the provenance of each item in detail and includes dates and original craftsmen wherever possible.

The gothic Baptistery Gate by master metalworker Samuel Yellin is a wrought-iron tapestry with twining vines accented with blossoms. The gate provided entry to the grounds of the great cathedral at 51st Street and Madison Avenue until the 1980s when the Baptistery was repositioned.

Many less monolithic artifacts also up for bid are light fixtures of every style including Art Deco, Craftsman and Empire. A hanging brass pendant from the 1930 Chrysler Building is among the original accessories for the famed landmark.

Compiled by Urban Archaeology, a 40-year-old company specializing in the salvaging and restoration of urban artifacts, the collection has been building for decades, with many pieces retaining their original patina, said Gil Shapiro, 71, the company's founder.

Shapiro first ventured into the salvage business as a teenager in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. On an impulse, he purchased -- with a $3 down payment -- $100 worth of used store fixtures from the local drugstore, which was closing.

"That store was a gathering place for the whole neighborhood," Shapiro said, "and I not only wanted something to remember it by but I saw an opportunity for reselling most of it."

Over the years the company has become a multimillion-dollar business with branches in Bridgehampton, Boston and Chicago.

"My warehouse is packed to the ceiling with precious pieces of history, things I hate to part with," Shapiro says, "but they shouldn't be allowed to disappear, we shouldn't demolish our past."

Getting to the auction

WHAT: Auction of artifacts from renovated NYC and foreign buildings, parks and gardens.

WHEN: March 27 and 28 at 1 p.m.

PUBLIC PREVIEW: March 24, 25, 26 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

WHERE: Urban Archaeology, 143 Franklin St., TriBeCa, Manhattan



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