Roundels from the West Side Highway, New York City

Object Number: 
2006.31.1-5
Date: 
ca. 1931
Medium: 
Cast iron
Dimensions: 
Overall: 17 3/4 dia. in. (45.1 cm)
Description: 
Five cast iron roundels from the West Side Highway, depicting seals of New York, ·1 SIGILL PROVINE NOVI EBORAC Seal of the Province of New York, designed by the Dutch in 1669 ·2 SIGILLUM NOVI BELGII Seal of New Netherland, designed in 1623, with beaver in shield ·3 SIGILLUM CIVITAT NOV. EBORAC / 1686 New York City seal, 1784. This seal is almost identical to the one adopted in 1686, but the crown symbolizing royal sovereignty has been replaced by an eagle ·4 SIGILLUM AMSTELO / DAMENSIS IN NOVO BELGIO Seal of New Amsterdam, designed in 1654 ·5 SIGILLUM CIVITATIS NOVI EBORACI / 1664 New York City seal, designed in 1915, used until 1975
Gallery Label: 
Robert Moses ushered in the era of elevated expressways with the innovative West Side Highway, begun in 1931. First known as the Miller Elevated Highway, in honor of Manhattan Borough President Julius Miller, the roadway was celebrated for its distinctive design features, including decorative guardrails, lampposts, and Art Deco friezes above all the cross streets. Punctuating the guardrails at regular intervals were seals of New York, from the first seal of New Netherland, in 1623, to the seal used by the city of New York when the highway was erected in the 1930s. The massive seals were created in cast iron and are estimated to weigh approximately 60 pounds each. They all bear at least some traces of a later orange paint. What began as a motorist's dream became slowly obsolete, as the narrow on-ramps, extremely tight turns, and Belgian-blocked surface became increasingly hazardous and the city failed to maintain the highway. On December 16, 1973, an entire section of the highway near Gansevoort Street collapsed, swallowing a tractor trailer. The city immediately closed the highway along most of its length and began the slow process of demolition, which was not completed until 1987. These seals were acquired during the 1970s or 1980s by the donor's uncle, Lawrence Zeidler, of Flemington, New Jersey and subsequently given to the donor.
Credit Line: 
Gift of William T. Matheson III
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group