A pair of pineapples flank the stairway of a house on Charles Street, welcoming visitors.
After seeing wrought-iron pineapples all over the West Village and wondering what they meant, I decided to investigate.
Painted garish red, and the only one left of what once was a pair, this pineapple lingers on Hudson Street.
For centuries after the pineapple was introduced into Europe by Columbus at the end of the 15th century from the island of Guadulupe, the fruit remained the sweetest thing anyone had ever tasted. And it quickly became a symbol of both hospitality and the high life.
The pineapple was so named for its resemblance to a pinecone. The wall paintings in Pompeii, said to be pineapples, are probably really pinecones.
In Colonial America, hostesses used pineapples as centerpieces at dinner parties, then cut the fruit up for dessert. There were even firms that would rent you a pineapple if you couldn’t afford one — provided you returned it in unblemished shape. Pineapples became synonymous with hospitality, which is why it would make an excellent restaurant name.
This lumpy specimen stands before a very elaborate wrought-iron gate, which leads to a backhouse.
King Charles II receives a pineapple as a gift from the colonies.
But despite the presence of pineapples on the tables of well-heeled hostesses before American independence, the fruit remained almost unknown to the American masses until shipping improvements like temperature control that occurred in the mid-19th-century made it possible for nearly anyone to enjoy the sweet yellow flesh.
Insofar as they kindled the popular imagination, pineapples have appeared in the art and architecture of the British Isles since at least the 17th century. King Charles was depicted receiving a pineapple in 1675 in a painting attributed to Hendrick Danckerts. In 1761, the Scottish Fourth Earl of Durham built a summer house with a pineapple cupola.
The Fourth Earl of Durham built himself a summer house with a pineapple cupola to welcome visitors in 1761.
This somewhat unconvincing pineapple on Perry Street might have been made by an ironworker who’d never seen an actual pineapple.
The wrought-iron pineapples of the West Village — some realistic, others more fanciful — mainly date from the post-Civil War era, when most of the brownstone houses were built, and the work was probably accomplished by German or Italian ironworkers, who embellished the gates and fences of the neighborhood with even stranger sculptures.
Here’s the alternative to having pineapples flank the door, on Perry Street.