ALAS, I have never been able to get a decent photo of the two vintage Twinlamps that light the plaza in front of the NYC City Hall entrance; that’s because the north side of City Hall Park has been barricaded off to camera scuttlers such as myself since the dawn of the Age of Terror. That’s a shame because not only the two Twins but a likeness of Revolutionary patriot Nathan Hale have been shut off from the casual walker. Original Twins are now hard to come by in NYC, with only this pair, one at 6th Avenue and Walker Street, and a handful along 5th Avenue, of original Twins from the 1910s, remain in place, along with a hybrid monumental Twin at Amsterdam Avenue and West 143rd.
New versions of Twins can be found ringing City Hall Park, along West 41st and 42nd along Bryant Park, and along Central Park West. This pair were altered during a City Hall Park renovation in the 1990s, in which its collection of vintage bishop crooks and Twins are given pendant ornaments.
The Twin on the right is mostly obscured behind the statue of Nathan Hale. This isn’t the best angle to get a photo of him; a better chance is from Centre Street on the east side of the park.
I’ve never been able to get a photo of Nathan Hale’s face. That’s because his statue stands in an area closed to the public since the late 1990s, when extra security was installed in City Hall Park and the area surrounding the building was cordoned off. It didn’t prevent a murder in City Hall in 2003, however.
The name Nathan Hale is synonymous with American patriotism. A volunteer for a dangerous spy mission in enemy territory on Manhattan Island during the Revolution, the young officer carried several incriminating reports, including his Yale diploma, when he was captured by the British and summarily executed. Many historians now agree that he did not utter the famous line, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” before his hanging. Hale, according to some accounts, was executed at what is the present corner of East Broadway and Market Street on an apple tree in Henry Rutgers’ farm, though in other renderings he was killed near what is now the United Nations complex.
Hale is the second youngest person memorialized by a statue in Manhattan; Joan of Arc is the youngest.
The heroic sculpture, by Frederick MacMonnies of Civic Virtue (in)fam(y), was installed in 1903, with the pedestal designed by Stanford White, himself a murder victim.
Is it time to move Nathan Hale to the public section of City Hall Park?
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