Distinguished for its classic beauty, this small marble courthouse expresses the best of Classical tradition, in its columned portico and fine sculptures adorning it. Located at the edge of Madison Square Park, the building was constructed between 1896 and 1899 to serve as a courthouse for the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. The marble Classically inspired Beaux-Arts courthouse, was designed by James Brown Lord and is considered to be an excellent example of the City Beautiful movement, which sought to introduce monuments and beautification to American cities. Of the nearly $650,000 spent on the building, 25 percent was spent on sculpture, a huge sum at the time. Sixteen sculptors – sponsored by the National Sculpture Society and among of the most esteemed of the day – worked on the thirty 12-foot marble statues on the facade, the most ever to work on a single building in the United States. Sculptures by Daniel Chester French, Charles Henry Niehaus, Karl Bitter, and more adorn the balustrade and entrance steps. Additionally, four caryatids sculpted by Thomas Shields Clarke on the Madison Avenue front, showcase a rare feature not typically seen in American architecture, representing the four seasons.
In 1953 a $1.2 million restoration of the facade was undertaken by the Department of Public Works during which the huge marble statues were removed and cleaned. It was at this time that the general public first realized one of the lawgivers was Mohammed. Representatives from Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia petitioned the State Department to destroy the statue rather than restore it, citing Islamic canon that forbids the depiction of human beings in painting or sculpture. When the statues were replaced in 1955, each was moved over one spot to fill in the void where Mohammed had stood. Today one empty pedestal remains.