Graybar Rats – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura

Graybar Rats

Rat sculptures try to infiltrate the Graybar Building in an architectural tribute to New York City's nautical history.  


In most places in New York City, people try to keep rats out. It follows, therefore, that the only architecture in the city that welcomed rats into the design is still a kind of monument to keeping rats at bay.

The Graybar Building, built in 1927, was designed to pay tribute to New York City’s position as a key transportation hub, with its trains (the building is right near Grand Central Terminal) and its seaport. The cables that connect the canopy in front of the exterior to the building itself are made to look like the mooring lines of a ship.

And as with real mooring lines, these mooring lines have rats climbing up them, attempting to get into the “ship” that is the Graybar Building. The rats are thwarted by conical structures called baffles near the top of the lines that stop the sculpted rodents from getting all the way to the building, as they would stop rats from entering ships.

The Graybar Company was headquartered in this building from 1927 until 1982, when it moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Recently, the company opened a sales office in its old building. The building has also housed companies like Remington Rand, CBS, and Conde Nast.

As the 20th century ticked on, the rats disappeared from their mooring lines, but during the building’s restoration in the late ’90s, a special note was made to “replace [the] missing rats.” And so there they are, once more, still unable to board the ship. The architects had one more little joke, though: The carved rosettes that the mooring lines lead to depict the heads of clever rats that, presumably, made it on board before the baffles were put in place.

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