On a corner of the Puck Building sits a plump gilded statute of the structure’s namesake. Puck, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is the mascot of one of New York’s best-known humor magazines in its day, Puck Magazine.
The magazine, a joint venture between illustrator Joseph Keppler and printer Adolph Schwarzmann, launched in 1876 as a German language periodical. Its quick success gave birth to an English language iteration within a year. Puck’s topical jabs and brutal satires won it booming circulation, which in turn allowed for the construction of the Puck Building.
Albert Wagner, a German-born architect, designed this building, which was built on the fringes of the era’s main publishing district. It was completed in 1885, and the magazine’s continued success prompted a further expansion in 1892. Inventive architectural thinking saved the Puck Building from possible demolition near the turn of the century when a planned extension of Lafayette Street threatened to cut right through its address. By trimming off about a third of the building and constructing a new western façade, the structure and its chubby mascot were preserved for future generations.
Puck Magazine was eventually purchased by a frequent subject of its satire, publishing magnate and Citizen Kane source material, William Randolph Hearst. Shortly after purchase, Hearst changed the magazine into a monthly publication, and then shut the magazine down all together in 1918.
In recent years, the building has been used for other graphic design and publishing ventures, commercial and retail space, both Pratt Institute and NYU rented space in the Puck building, and the building was used as the backdrop for movies and television shows such as When Harry Met Sally and Will & Grace.