“Tektonomastics” is a word that we made up by combining “tekto-” (Greek for “building) with “onomastics” (the study of the history and origin of proper names. More established branches of onomatology include toponomastics (the study of place names) and anthroponomastics (the study of personal names). We are creating a new branch - tektonomastics - or, the study of building names.
We first started noticing intriguing names on residential buildings around where we live near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. A lot of these names refer to famous people (like Martha Washington, Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln), while others are typical “nice place” names (like Majestic Court, Park Central, The Lakeview). But some building names are more enigmatic and poetic (Ada, Launcelot, Lillianette), making you wonder why someone chose that name for a building. And some names are just downright quirky (Mattowacks). We began finding named buildings everywhere - in Astoria, Inwood Heights, Chelsea, and more - and realized just how many named buildings exist in New York City.
So we began wondering, why don’t we call these buildings by their proper names anymore? Was there a time when friends said, “Let’s meet at the Martinique at 6”? Or lovers wrote letters addressed to their sweethears at Monbijou on East 17th Street?
These eclectic names evoke a bygone era when owners, builders and designers named their buildings with personality (and humor). By taking photographs and mapping the locations of these buildings, we hope to create a map of this forgotten landscape and help these neglected building names live once more.