Are those gargoyles on top of the Niles Agency in Katonah?
Photo by Amy Drucker
The three stone figures that you see atop the Niles Agency at 41 Katonah Avenue aren’t gargoyles. They’re gryphons, explains Bruce Niles. As the second-generation family member at the helm of the agency, he placed the statues atop the building shortly after purchasing it in 1983. (The building dates from 1907.) While both gryphons and gargoyles are mythical creatures, “Gargoyles have negative connotations while gryphons were known as guardians of treasure,” he says. In addition to being on the building, the gryphon is part of the agency’s logo. “Since an insurance agency guards treasures, and the building we’re in is a treasure, the gryphon was a perfect symbol.”
Niles found two gryphons at United House Wrecking in Stamford when he was looking for objects for his home. “I thought they were cool and liked what they stood for.” Luckily when he expanded the building in 2007, Niles found a third gryphon. Deirdre Courtney-Batson, a member of the Bedford Planning Board and a historian, says in the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a revival of medieval reproductions on buildings.
To further differentiate between gryphons and gargoyles, gryphons are placed on top of buildings and have the head, talons, and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Gargoyles, which are considered “grotesques,” have an animal or human face and are placed on gutters of buildings to act as spouts to take rainwater away from buildings.