Welcome to Forgotten NY’snewest installment of “Who Are Those Guys & Gals” in which we investigate statues of real people in Manhattan. Some are instantly recognizable, some are not recognizable at all, but if you’ve ever wondered who they are…you came to the right place…
Location: 2 Penn Plaza
Sculptor: Adolph Weinman
Year installed: 1910; in its present location, 1968
In between the two walkways into Madison Square Garden, in the small plaza between the McGraw-Hill Companies sign and the Chase ATMs, stands Samuel Rea, who served as vice president and later president of the Pennsylvania Rail Road Company from 1899 to 1925. Statues of Penn Station‘s first president, Alexander Cassatt (brother of painter Mary Cassatt) and Rea occupied niches in Penn Station’s original cavernous interior. Oddly, the Cassatt statue was moved out of NYC and is now at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, and Rea was moved here after Penn Station met the wrecking ball in 1964.
Sculptor Adolph Weinman was also responsible for designing the reverse sides of a number of WWII medals, including the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and he also designed the marble Declaration Committee bas-relief at the entrance to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the Mercury Head dime and the Walking Liberty half dollar, as well as Penn’s 22 granite eagles.
Location: Greeley Square at Broadway, 6th Avenue and West 33rd Street
Sculptor: Alexander Doyle
Year installed: 1894
Haven’t we seen this guy before?
Actually, we have seen this journalist and presidential candidate before, on our very first Who Are Those Guys page. This is the second of two Greeley statues installed in New York City in a four-year span, 1890-1894. This statue was commissioned by the Typographical Society of America: Greeley was first president of Typographical Union No. 6.
Location: Golda Meir Square, Broadway and West 39th Street
Sculptor: Beatrice Goldfine
Year installed: 1980
Golda Meir was born in Kiev, Ukraine, Russia, and moved with her family to Milwaukee in 1906. In 1921 she moved with her husband to British-occupied Palestine and began work for Palestine’s labor movement. She became an ambassador and later foreign minister of the new State of Israel beginning in 1948, and Premier from 1971-74, guiding Israel through the Yom Kippur War in 1973. She resigned in 1974 and was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.
Bryant Park, between 5th and 6th Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets, occupies the site of NYC’s former foremost water source, the Croton Distributing Reservoir. When the NY Public Library rose in 1911, Bryant Park stood atop its vast reservoirs of books. Bryant Park also contains a large sculpted concentration of luminaries…
Location: East side of Bryant Park behind NY Public Library
Sculptor: Herbert Adams
Year installed: 1911
Seemingly enthroned in the park that bears his name is poet, editor, champion of nature and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. He was editor of the New York Evening Post from 1829 until his death; he pushed for the construction of Central Park and the creation of the Metropolitan Museum. Bryant began his career as a lawyer in New England, but didn’t care for it and turned to journalism. His poem Thanatopsis remains a staple of high school and college literary courses.
Bryant Park actually predates the Library. Reservoir Square at 6th Avenue and 42nd Street was renamed Bryant Park in 1884.
Location: East side of Bryant Park near West 40th Street, near the Bryant statue and the Bryant Park Cafe
Sculptor: Jo Davidson
Year installed: 1991
Gertrude Stein was a poet and novelist whose Paris home became a gathering place for the leading artists and writers of her time, including Pablo Picasso (portrait left), Henry Matisse and Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s and 1930s.
She is probably best known to those unfamiliar with her work for her commentary on Oakland, California: “There is no there there.” Stein was born in Allegheny, PA, but her family lived in Oakland for a time when she was a child. When she returned there many years later, she found that her childhood home had been knocked down…hence her reaction.
Among Stein’s works are Three Lives, Everybody’s Autobiography (which contains the Oakland quote) and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which despite its title was pretty much the story of Stein’s life until 1932.
Location: along park path, north side of park near West 42nd Street
Sculptor: John Quincy Adams Ward
Year installed: 1885 in Herald Square; 1941 in Bryant Park
William Earl Dodge, the “Christian Merchant,” was a dry-goods manufacturer, a leader in copper and metals trade (Phelps Dodge Corporation), a civic leader, vocal opponent of slavery and an organizer of the Young Men’s Christian Association (the YMCA) and the National Temperance Society.
Originally in Herald Square in the triangle formed by Broadway, 6th Avenue and West 35th Street, Dodge was moved to Bryant Park in 1941 to make way for the James Gordon Bennett Memorial “Bell Ringers Monument,” which itself was being moved from another part of town. At times, NYC can seem like a chessboard.
Bennett was president of the New York Herald.
Location: on 6th Avenue, just north of West 40th St.
Sculptor: José Otava Correia Lima
Year installed: 1954
From its source in Soho to its end at Central Park, Sixth Avenue, in its capacity as The Avenue of The Americas, is lined with statues of the heroes of independence in the Americas.
A geologist, poet, statesman and scholar, José Andrada was a leading contributor to the Brazilian Constitution of 1824. Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal–mostly peacefully–in 1822. Andrada became Brazil’s interior as well as foreign minister. He fell out of favor, however, the next year for opposing Brazilian emperor Don Pedro I’s policies and was exiled to France. Brazil’s constitution, featuring many of his ideas, was drawn up the following year. Andrada would return to Brazil in 1829.
José Lima’s sculpture of Andrada was presented to the USA as a gift by Brazil in 1954, the same year it took its place on The Avenue of The Americas. It was the winner of an open competition in Brazil.
Formerly at 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, Andrada was moved to 6th Avenue and West 40th Street (Nikola Tesla Square) during Bryant Park’s 1990s renovations.
Location: south end of park near West 40th St.
Sculptor: Karl Fischer
Year installed: 1934
Johann Volfgang von Goethe was one of Germany’s greatest writers, as well as a playwright, essayist, translator and scientist. He worked on his greatest triumph, Faust, a philosophical work in which a Renaissance scholar enters into a deal with the devil, for over sixty years. Faust was based on a story by British writer Christopher Marlowe (a Shakespeare contemporary) but Goethe’s was a work that far transcended its source material.
The Faust legend is still being remade in countless versions, from Damn Yankees to Bedazzled.
This bust of Goethe was first cast about 1832 by Karl Fischer, and was obtained by the Goethe Club of New York in 1876 and was placed in the Metropolitan Museum. The original iron bust was recast as a bronze replica in 1934 and placed in Bryant Park.
Goethe’s name is often butchered by non-German speakers: it’s approximately, GER-ta.
Location: east wall of Bryant Park on West 40 Street
Sculptor: Paul Fjelde
Year installed: 1957
The Wendell Willkie Building formerly stood opposite Bryant Park at 20 West 40th Street, but was demolished to make way for a Republic Bank Building annex. Willkie’s plaque on the south wall of Bryant Park is opposite the building’s old site.
Attorney Willkie, born in Indiana, became a New Yorker in 1929. He became president of the Commonwealth and Southern Corporation in 1933 and became a vocal critic of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies.
Willkie was nominated for president on the Republican ticket in 1940, with backing from the New York Herald Tribune, and earned 45% of the popular vote against FDR. Willkie later went to work for FDR during World War II, serving as a roving ambassador. He remained active in politics and was known for his philanthropy in his remaining years, and died in New York in 1944.
The inscription on the sculpture reads, “I believe in America because in it we are free – free to choose our government, to speak our minds, to observe our different religions.”
Warner Brothers cartoonist Bob Clampett‘s “Falling Hare” is a rare cartoon in which the joke’s on Bugs, as he’s bedeviled by a gremlin in a bomber plane.
The gremlin informs Bugs that he’s not Wendell Willkie!
The “crossroads of the world” is arguably the world’s most famous address and may even be more universally known than, say, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There are only a very few places that can be considered world capitals…Piccadilly Square in London…the Champs Elysees in Paris…Ginza in Tokyo. It was only a few years ago that Times Square was ‘The Deuce’…a dangerous s!@#hole of crime and vice that only the most courageous seeker of Forgotten artifacts would invade. And, it’s arguable that the sanitized Disneyfication of The Deuce has rubbed out most of those very artifacts. But not all of them, as we’ll see, because some of them are definite “who are those guys and gals” moments.
Location: Duffy Square at Broadway, 7th Avenue and 46th Street, in front of thetkts booth
Sculptor: Georg John Lober
Year installed: 1958
Give my regards to Broadway
Remember me to Herald Square
Tell all the gang on 42nd Street
That I will soon be there
George M. Cohan forever reviews Times Square.
It was Irving Berlin who organized the campaign for a permanent memorial of Cohan in Times Square. It wasn’t as easy as first hoped, since Cohan had opposed the powerful Actors Equity Union. Finally, though, the portrait appeared in 1958.
Cohan also wrote “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (even though he was born on the Third of July, not the Fourth), “Over There” and also made his mark as an actor in “Ah, Wilderness” and played FDR in “I’d Rather Be Right”.
“Little Johnny Jones”, Cohan’s first big hit musical from 1903, was revived with Donny Osmond in the title role in 1982. It was one of Donny’s biggest flops, closing after just one performance.
James Cagney (from the Upper East Side) played the immortal Cohan the year George M. died, 1942. Cohan was able to see the film before his death.
Location: Duffy Square at Broadway, 7th Avenue and 47th Street, near the new tkts booth
Sculptor: Charles Keck
Year installed: 1937
In the final scene of Sweet Smell of Success, Tony Curtis’ amoral, smarmy press agent Sidney Falco (above with Burt Lancaster’s imperious newspaper columnist J. J. Hunsecker) gets his final just desserts at Duffy Square.
Father Francis Duffy of Holy Cross Church on 42nd Street near Broadway served with the Fighting 69th, a mostly-Irish regiment in World War I, was severely wounded, and received the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery on the battlefield.
His monument, dedicated in 1937, features Father Duffy in his World War I uniform standing in front of the Celtic cross.
New York City is tremendously proficient at taking perfectly good buildings and kandy-koating them with glop. The Times Tower, once an Italian Renaissance masterpiece, has become a giant billboard.
Israel Miller’s shoe store was long patronized by theater people. The I. Miller Building, at 7th Avenue and 46th Street, was built from 1927-1929 and is presently unrecognizable underneath the video billboards and garish scaffolding advertising a chain restaurant.
But a closer view of the Israel Miller Building will prove to be a glimpse into the Great White Way’s past.
In 1927 the I. Miller company took a public vote to determine the most popular actresses of the day in various realms of the theater with the idea of placing their statues on their new 7th Avenue store. The results came in and Alexander Stirling Calder was chosen to depict them in their most famous roles…
From the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 15, 1879, the daughter of Maurice and Georgiana Drew Barrymore and the sister of Lionel and John Barrymore,Ethel Barrymore first intended to be a pianist. She made her professional debut in New York in 1894 in a company headed by her grandmother, Louisa Lane Drew, a member of another prominent acting family. Her first success was scored in London in The Bells and Peter the Great (1897-98). She starred for the first time on Broadway in Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (1901).
Barrymore’s notable plays include Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire (1905), Mid-Channel (1910), Trelawny of the “Wells” (1911), Déclassée (1919), The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1924), The Constant Wife (1928), Scarlet Sister Mary (1931), Whiteoaks (1938), and The Corn Is Green (1942).
In 1928 she opened the Ethel Barrymore Theater in New York, named in her honor, with The Kingdom of God.
She also appeared in vaudeville, on radio, and on television and made a number of motion pictures. Her outstanding films include The Nightingale (1914), and the most noteworthy were Rasputin and the Empress (1933), which was the only work in which she appeared with her brothers John and Lionel; The Spiral Staircase (1946); and None but the Lonely Heart (1944), for which she won an Academy Award. In her later motion pictures she was usually cast as an imperious but lovable matriarch. She published her reminiscences in Memories, an Autobiography (1955) and died in Hollywood, California, on June 18, 1959.
Marilyn Miller was one of Broadway’s foremost tap dancers, singers and actresses from the mid-1910s until her untimely death in 1936. A protegee of Flo Ziegfeld, she made her stage debut in 1914 and is best known for her most successful play, “Sally”, which ran from 1920 to 1924. On the I. Miller Building she is shown in the title role of the Jerome Kern play “Sunny.”
Judy Garland played Marilyn Miller in “Till The Clouds Roll By” and June Haver played her in “Look For The Silver Lining.”
Mary Pickford (left) and Lillian Gish take tea
It can be argued that Mary “America’s Sweetheart” Pickford was the first “bankable” female movie star. Beginning in 1909 she starred in hundreds of pictures, and her natural style influenced actors for decades to come. (In the Teens and Twenties, a more stilted, stagey style of acting still prevailed in motion pictures, but Pickford was unafraid to convey more emotions and appear without looking completely made-up).
In the Twenties, her popularity approached that of male screen icons Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Charlie Chaplin. Together they formed their own studio, United Artists. After the talkies came in, Pickford retired from the movies, but remained active in Hollywood, creating a retirement home for actors now without insurance and retirement benefits. Pickford also took a hand in her legacy by donating her movies to the American Film Institute.
On the I. Miller Building, Mary appears in her role as Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1921. (She also played Cedric’s mother Dearest in the film.)
In the 2000′s it’s hard to imagine that opera stars were once perceived in the public eye as pop stars, and their careers were followed as fervently as, say, Mariah Carey’s or J-Lo’s are by fans today. Today’s opera stars, like Pavarotti or the Irish tenors, are respected, but their careers aren’t the subject of mass marketing and saturation advertising. It was a bit different in the Twenties, when it wasn’t unusual for the public to be asked for their favorite opera star, and on the I. Miller Building, soprano Rosa Ponselle was the people’s choice.
From Annemarie’s Great Singers of the Past website:
She was born in the United States to Italian parents. Her real name was Rosa Ponzillo. She sang in American film theatres and cabarets opposite her sister Carmela (a mezzo) as the “Ponzillo Sisters.” The Met Impresario Gatti-Casazza was so impressed that he immediately invited her to the Met. Caruso was enthusiastic about her, and she made her early debut in the presence of the tenor star in 1918! She became the first American-born artist to sing a major role at the Met without the benefit of prior European training or experience.
She was born with a natural gift for singing and acting. The performances with Caruso brought her world-wide fame. She enjoyed extraordinary success in a variety of roles (no Puccini and Wagner!). She was also a guest star at the opera houses of Chicago and Covent Garden. She had also a brilliant career as a concert-singer. For private reasons she retired from the opera stage at the age of 39. In 1954 she made recordings at her home (Villa Pace). Her voice was still in superb condition.
Location: on the elevated roadway that takes Park Avenue around Grand Central Terminal
Sculptor: Ernst Plassmann
Year installed: 1869, at the Hudson River Railroad depot; 1929 at Grand Central Terminal
The story of Cornelius Vanderbilt‘s statue is the story of two railroad depots. Today, cars are typically backed up and exhaust fumes fill the air between Hudson, Varick, Beach and Laight Streets at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.
But from 1869 to 1934, the site was occupied by St. John’s Freight Terminal, built by John Butler Snook for Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and dominated on its facade by the four-ton, 12-ft. high image of the Commodore…the largest portrait statue in the US when it was first made.
In the 1930s, trucking replaced railroads as the major freight carrier in NYC, and the St. Johns’ depot was slated for demolition. The Commodore was moved to his present location, at another of his legacies, Grand Central Terminal.
Location: 8th Avenue and 40th Street, in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal
Year installed: 2000
Actually, it’s not “The Great One” who’s immortalized here, but one of his most-beloved characters, bus driver and blowhard Ralph Kramden, who Gleason portrayed off and on for over 20 years. The statue was commissioned by TVLand, the cable TV channel, and installed in August 2000. (A statue of Mary Richards throwing her knit hat in the opening sequence of the Mary Tyler Moore Show was similarly placed in Minneapolis in 2001.)
Manhattan’s Outdoor Sculpture, Margot Gayle and Michele Cohen, Prentice Hall Press 1988
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Tales of Old Tribeca, Oliver E. Allen, Tribeca Trib, 1999. Out of print.
Lost New York, Nathan Silver, Houghton Mifflin, updated edition 2000
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6/30/2002; revised 2012