19 April 2011

The Puck Building

Over a year ago, I read American Psycho for the first time. A hundred or so pages in, I caught a mention of The Puck Building.

I am usually heads down when I'm going somewhere with purpose in New York, but the Puck Building isn't just an ordinary-looking building. It's huge, details of its striking architecture aren't just reserved for its top several feet (as is the case with many buildings in SoHo), and it's a rich, rich red.

Puck Building, front

Puck Building, back

Over the next several months, I found myself staring at the building every time I walked by it. I became incredibly curious about what it was built for, and what had happened in it over the years. I turned to where any history-curious person would - Wikipedia.* And here it is:

The Puck Building was built in the late 1800's. It housed the offices of Puck Magazine, which seems to have been one of the first humorous, political-satire-ridden publications. At some point more printers had offices in there, and for years one could smell ink up and down the hallways. Now it is mostly used by NYU. You can have events in its ballrooms.

Somehow, I was disappointed. I was half hoping for something creepy or strange to have happened in the building. I can with 80% certainty say that this was influenced by the book that referenced it. American Psycho is one of the best books I've read, but it was also the most horrifying and disturbing.

I shouldn't read this before bed anymore.

The remaining 20% lies in the defining characteristic of the building – there is a gold figure of Shakespeare's Puck (from A Midsummer Night's Dream) above its doorways, and one on the back corner. Now, I know Puck isn't supposed to look cute, and is a pretty mischievous fellow, but in these statues he looks downright creepy. Like he knows something you don't.

Puck Building, back corner

One interesting thing I read was about this guy Alger Hiss, who was a salesman in one of the stationery companies housed in the Puck Building. Prior to this, he actually helped establish the United Nations, and was later accused of being a Soviet spy. The case was never 100% solved, and a historian mentioned that until all documents surrounding the trial are recovered (they are sealed up and won't be available until 2026), we will never know the whole story.


What's my point? Not sure. I still, still give the Puck Building my suspicious sideways glance whenever I pass by, and I felt compelled to share this, 15 months later. This is most definitely my imagination filling in blanks that don't exist and running away with me. Oh well, see you guys in 15 years ;)

* Here's a fun fact: Before writing this post, I edited my first Wikipedia article, ever. I added the bullet point about the building's appearance in American Psycho under In Popular Culture. Hooray!
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