by Kevin Walsh

This will turn out to be the second FNY post regarding NYC Mayor from 1913-1917, John Purroy Mitchel, in the last four months, but sometimes things turn out like that. I was attending a lecture by Manhattan Boro Historian Michael Miscione this week regarding hidden and unknown gems in NYC, when two of the items mentioned were the pair of flagpoles with massive bases outside the front entrance, also dedicated to the mayor. I realized I had taken a picture of one of the bases while on a midtown March 2013 walk.

The bases are of particular interest and were first installed when the library was under construction in 1911, designed by library architects Carrere and Hastings.

Citing an ancient belief about the world resting on the back of a turtle, the bases rest on four of the shelled reptiles. Four allegorical figures occupy the corners: representing¬†adventure, civilization, conquest, and discovery. Medallions and sculptures depicting the earth’s races, Caucasian, Asian, African, Native American; zodiacal figures; and owls representing literature can also be found.

The metal flagpoles were installed in 1941, replacing earlier wooden poles, and were dedicated to Mitchel. Two plaques, commemorating both his service as mayor and his shortened wartime aviation career, were set in the sidewalk under one of the poles.

See Untapped Cities for closeups of the bases.




Neil J Murphy May 3, 2013 - 8:54 am

According to the link at Untapped Cities, “The monumental bases were restored in 2011 at a cost of over fifty million dollars.”

Fifty million dollars? Is that a typo?

STEVE May 3, 2013 - 8:13 pm

No. It read that 50 million dollars was for the renovation of the entire library, of which the flagpoles were just a small part. It probably originally cost, as they said in New York City, a buck two fifty…. but actually it cost $9 million in 1911 dollars. It has an annual budget of $245 million, so $50 million is a drop in the bucket.


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