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Dotting the Parks, Monuments to the Famous or Forgotten - NYTimes.com

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N.Y. / REGION

Dotting the Parks, Monuments to the Famous or Forgotten


By LISA W. FODERARO JAN. 9, 2014

RemembertheWalloonSettlers?ThecontributiontoNewYorkshistory madebyEugeneG.Putnam?ConradPoppenhusenringabell? Wasthatno,noandno? Andyet,eachofthemismemorializedsomewhereinthiscity,their markonhistoryetchedinbronzeandgranite. Thereareabout800monumentsoncityparklandinthefive boroughs,scatteredalongramblingpaths,grassytrianglesandslender medians.Theyloomoverpassingpedestriansandcastawearyeyeon gridlockedtrafficoftensomber,sometimeswhimsical,frequently ignored,asthehouseholdnamesofpastdecadesandcenturiesslipinto obscurity. Whatexactlyconstitutesamonumentisnotcutinstone,sotospeak. Amonumentcanbeanartwork,butitdoesnthavetobe,explained JonathanKuhn,theparksdepartmentsdirectorofartandantiquities.It hastoperpetuatememoryandhaveacommemorativefunction.Its everythingfromamarkerinthegroundtothetriumphalarchin

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WashingtonSquarePark. Somanymonumentswereerectedoncityparklandovertheyearsthat ahalfdozenparks,startinginthe1970s,havehadunofficialmoratoriums oncommemorativesculptures.BatteryParkaloneishometo20such tributes,amongthemtheWalloonSettlersMonument(theywereagroup ofBelgianHuguenotfamilieswhosailedforNewAmsterdamin1624),the NorwegianVeteransMonument,theJohnWolfeAmbrosestatueandthe WirelessOperatorsMemorial. FrederickLawOlmsted,whodesignedCentralParkinthe1850swith CalvertVaux,detestedmemorials.Hederidedthemonumentsthatwere alreadypouringintotheparkasincidentsandprescientlybemoanedthe inevitableanonymitythatwouldcometocloakmanyofthepeoplethey honored. Newonesstillgainentrytoday,althoughthebarisconsiderably higheroverthelast20years,fewerthan60newmemorialshavebeen approvedbythecity.Theparksdepartmentvetsproposalsandforwards worthycandidatestothecitysPublicDesignCommission,whichisthe finalarbiter.AmongthemorerecenthonoreesareAntoninDvorak,the Czechcomposer;BenitoJurez,aformerMexicanpresident;Harriet Tubman,theabolitionist;andEleanorRoosevelt,theformerfirstlady. TheTubmanandRooseveltmemorialshelpedfillavoidamongthecitys monuments,whichalmostexclusivelymemorializemen. Somenumberofthesehistoricalmarkers,frombustsandbenchesto fountainsandfiguresinneoClassicalstyle,arenotonlyfetchingobjectsin themselves,butfascinatingforthewaysinwhichtheyilluminatedimly rememberedpartsofthecitysmultilayeredhistory.Here,portraitsof somethatdeservemorethanapassingglance. AndrewHaswellGreenMemorialSeat Askmostpeoplewhocreatedthe843acremasterpiecethatisCentral Park,andOlmstedandVauxgetthecredit.Butahandfuloflocalhistory buffshaveanotheranswer:AndrewHaswellGreen. WhileOlmstedandVauxwerethecreativegeniuses,Green,as

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presidentandcomptrolleroftheparksBoardofCommissioners,was effectivelyCentralParkschiefexecutive. EveryNovemberontheanniversaryofGreensdeath,agroupledby MichaelMiscione,theManhattanboroughhistorian,gatherstoraisea glassofappleciderinhishonoratthegrandmarblebenchmorethan 12feetacrossthatservesashismonument.Itlies,somewhathidden,at thetopofahillinsidetheparknearFifthAvenueandEast106thStreet. Dedicatedin1928,thebenchisinscribed,inpart:InHonorof AndrewHaswellGreen,DirectingGeniusofCentralParkinitsFormative Period. SometimeslikenedtoRobertMoses,Greeniscreditedwith consolidatingthecityintofiveboroughsin1898,earninghimthe nicknameFatherofGreaterNewYork.ThehistorianKennethT.Jackson hascalledGreenarguablythemostimportantleaderinGothamslong history. PerhapsonereasonGreenissoovershadowedbyOlmstedwasthat thetwooftensparred.Anatypicallycandidsignnexttothememorial benchacknowledgeshismoredifficultside:Criticsandevenalliesfound himoverbearingandstingy. Gen.DanielButterfieldStatue Nosubjectismorecelebratedinstonethanmilitaryheroism.And DanielButterfield,whostartedhisadultlifeasaNewYorkmerchant, certainlyachievedthat.DuringtheCivilWar,heservedaschiefofstaffto theArmyofthePotomac,risingtobecomeamajorgeneralbythewars end. Butheisbestknownforanothermilitarycontribution,hisroleinthe creationoftheplaintivebuglecall,taps.In1862,Butterfield,whowasnot amusicianoracomposer,summonedabuglertohistenttohelphim produceanewversionofthebuglecalltosignaltheendoftheday,to replaceonehedeemedtooformal.SomequestionwhetherButterfield simplymodifiedtheexistingcall,whileotherssayhecomposedanewone. Whateverthecase,thetunehaslongbeentheclosingformilitaryfunerals.

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Afterthewar,Butterfieldjoinedthefamilybusiness.Itprovedtobea lucrativemove.Hisfather,John,helpedfoundAmericanExpress.The youngwarherowasgood,too,atsniffingoutrailroadandrealestate opportunities.Alongtheway,hemarriedJuliaLorillardJames. Inherwill,sheleftdetailedinstructions(andmoney)forthecreation ofacolossalstatueofherhusband,armsfoldedandhatcocked.John GutzonBorglum,thesculptorbetterknownforMountRushmore, receivedthecommission.Todaythemonumentstands,indeedlargerthan life,inthesoutheastcornerofSakuraPark,inMorningsideHeights, oppositeButterfieldsoldcommanderinGrantsTomb. Apparently,Borglumwassoannoyedbytheestatesexecutorsthathe woundupsigningthetopofButterfieldsbronzehead.That,hesaid,is theonlypartoftheoriginalstatuetheydidntmakemechange. ChiefNimhamMemorial NearlyonethirdofallthebattlesfoughtduringtheRevolutionary WarwereinNewYork.AmemorialinVanCortlandtParkintheBronx commemoratesonebloodyencounter. AfieldstonecairnhonorsthesacrificeofChiefDanielNimhamand otherStockbridgeIndiansintheBattleofKingsbridge.OnAug.31,1778, withNewYorkCityheldbytheBritishforces,theywerekilledwhile fightingonbehalfoftheRevolution. Thebattle,describedafterwardasanambushandmassacre, draggedonforhoursonlandbelongingtoVanCortlandtManor,avast estatebetweenBroadwayandtheBronxRiver.ChiefNimham,aveteran oftheFrenchandIndianWarsandaconverttoChristianity,fought alongsidehisson,Abraham,whowasalsokilled.Accordingtoone account,withhismenoverpowered,Nimhamcalleduponthemtoretreat butrefusedtoyieldhimself.Iamold,andcandiehere,heissaidtohave shouted. Therusticmemorial,whichblendswiththeparksnaturallandscape nearVanCortlandtParkEastandOneidaAvenue,waserectedin1906by theBronxchapteroftheDaughtersoftheAmericanRevolution.Itbearsa

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simpleplaque:UponthisfieldChiefNimhamandseventeenStockbridge Indians,asalliesofthePatriots,gavetheirlivesforliberty. AbrahamdePeysterStatue BeforetheBushesandtheCuomos,therewerethedePeysters. AbrahamdePeyster,borninNewAmsterdam,wasthe20thmayorofNew YorkCityinthe1690s.Hisfather,Johannes,hadbeendeputymayor beforehim.AfewyearsafterAbrahamstenure,hisbrother,JohannesJr., becamemayor.He,inturn,wassucceededbytheirbrotherinlaw,David Provost. ThereareshadesofMayorMichaelR.BloomberginAbrahamde Peystersstory.Aphilanthropistandbusinessman,hedonatedhisown landforanewcityhall(laterrenamedFederalHall),lentthestruggling citymoneyandunderwroteimpoverishedschools. In1893,agreatgreatgreatgrandsonofAbrahamdePeyster proposedamemorial,andabaseforitwasbuiltinBatteryPark.Buteven inthelate1800s,theBatterywasconsideredoverrunwithmonuments. BatteryParkisnottheplacefortheeffigy,declaredan1895editorialin TheNewYorkTimes.Thereisnoroomforit.Wehavegonetoofarin parkstatuaryalready.Itadded:Betterfilluptheholeandfindanother placefordePeyster. PlacewasfoundforhiminBowlingGreen,thoughthebronzeand granitemonument,dedicatedin1896,wasjudgedtobetoolarge;itwas removedandasmallerversionwascreated.ItwaslatermovedtoHanover Squareand,lastfall,toThomasPainePark,partofFoleySquarenearthe citysSupremeCourtbuilding.Thereitstandstoday. PleasantPlainsMemorial Whilememorialsoftencommemoratethosewhohavesuffered adversity,occasionallyitisthemonumentitselfthatstandsasasymbolof endurance. OnStatenIsland,inthemiddleofasmalltraffictriangleboundedby handsomehousesandutilitywires,aWorldWarImonumentremembers 13fallensoldiersandmanyotherswhoservedfromthePleasantPlains

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neighborhood.ThestatueisbasedlooselyontheWingedVictoryof SamothraceintheLouvre:aGrecianstylefemalefigurestands10feettall uponaglobe. ButtheStatenIslandmonument,whichnowservesasabackdropfor Christmastreelightingceremoniesinthecommunity,isactuallyareplica oftheoriginal,whichwaserectedin1923. Acaraccidentin1963leftthestatuewithabrokenarm;asecondcar crash,twoyearslater,toppledtheentirething.Then,inthe1970s,after thestatuewasremovedforrestoration,itwasstolenfromacitywarehouse onRandallsIsland. Whilevariousideasforareplacementweredebated,theempty pedestalwasdestroyedinyetanothercaraccident.Finally,inthe1990s, twomembersoftheCityCouncilsteppedinandpaidtohavetheoriginal monumentreplicated,basedonphotographs.Toprotectthenew monument,theparksdepartmentraisedthetriangleandfencedthe monumentin.Sofar,sogood. Dr.AlexanderJ.C.SkeneBust Ofthehundredsofmonumentsintheboroughparks,onlytwoare devotedtophysicians.Bothweregynecologists. OnewasDr.JamesMarionSims(18131883),consideredthefather ofmoderngynecology,whosemonumentstandsinCentralPark.The otherwastheScottishbornAlexanderJ.C.Skene,whoreceivedamedical degreefromLongIslandCollegeHospitalandbeganhiscareerin Brooklyn. Accordingtotheparksdepartmentswebsite,Skenechosethe boroughdespitewarningsthatnoBrooklynphysicianhasevermadea ripplethatcrossedtheEastRiver. Hemadewavesinstead.Areveredsurgeon,teacherandphysician, SkenefoundedtheAmericanGynecologicalSocietyinthe1880sand eventuallybecamepresidentofthehospitalwherehehadearnedhis degree. Dedicatedin1905,hismonument,inGrandArmyPlazaatthe

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entrancetoProspectPark,isanaugustaffair,withalargebronzebustset againstatallslabofwhiteVermontmarble.Thehospital,inCobbleHill, hasnotfaredaswell.Ithaslostmoneyforyears,andtheStateUniversity ofNewYorkistryingtoshutitdown. ConradPoppenhusenBust ThenameConradPoppenhusenmaynothavewiderecognition outsideCollegePoint,Queens.Butoldtimersintheneighborhoodknow allabouthim:Hehelpedbuildupthetown,saidBobLewis,80,a retiredpolicedetectiveandaCollegePointnative. Poppenhusen,whoimmigratedfromHamburg,Germany,inthe 1840s,foundedaprosperousrubberfactoryinCollegePoint.Hebuilt workerhousing,arailroad,achurchandavocationalhighschool. Heisbestknownforerectingwhatisbelievedtobethefirstpublic kindergartenintheUnitedStates.Tothisday,thePoppenhusenInstitute, whichhadhousedthekindergarten,aswellasalibrary,bankand courtroom,servesasaculturalandeducationalcenter. OccupyingatriangleonCollegePointBoulevardand11thAvenue, Poppenhusensmonumentfeaturesanoversizebronzebustthatshows himwithastrongnose,anAmishstylebeardandanimpishexpression. Erectedin1884,thepedestalsayssimply:TotheMemoryofthe BenefactorofCollegePoint.InlateDecember,astwilightdescendedon thequietneighborhood,apinegarlandwasdrapedaroundhisshoulders. ThomasMooreMemorial Asitturnsout,youdontneedtohavelivedinNewYorkorevento havevisitedtoearnamonumenthere.Wavesofimmigrantstothecity havefelttheneedtocommemoratetheculturalheroesoftheirhomelands. TheConcertGroveinProspectParkisawhoswhoofgreatEuropean artistswhoneversetfoothere. Beethoven,MozartandWeberarethere,presentedbytheUnited GermanSingers.EdvardGriegisthere,thankstotheNorwegianSocieties. AndsoistheIrishpoetandbiographerThomasMoore,courtesyoftheSt. PatrickSociety.

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OnlyMoore,whowasalsoalyricistandsinger,traveledtotheUnited States,cominghereintheearly1800s.Itisunclearwhetherheevermade ittoNewYorkCity. Inanycase,heissaidtohaveloathedmostAmericans,findingthem crudeandvulgar,andheevendislikedPresidentThomasJefferson,whom hemetbrieflyinWashington.Itcouldnothavehelpedthatthepresident apparentlymistookthediminutiveMooreforachild. OnhisreturntoBritain,hewroteEpistles,OdesandOtherPoems,a catalogofhisantipathyforallthingsAmerican,particularlyslavery,and hisadventureswithAmericanwomen.Thebook,publishedin1806, elicitedgalesofprotestintheUnitedStates.Butmemoriesfade,and73 yearslater,hisbust,bythesculptorJohnG.Draddy,wasdedicatedin ProspectPark. PutnamMemorialFountain Somemonumentsaresomodestthattheyseemnottospeakofbold actionsonamonumentalstage,buttowhisperaboutlivestouchedona smallerscale.ThegranitedrinkingfountaininVeteransParkonStaten Islandisonesuchexample. Erectedin1915,thefountainhonorsthememoryofEugeneG. Putnam(18651913),who,asaplaqueexplains,wasprincipalofPublic School20inthePortRichmondneighborhoodfor17years.Theoriginal P.S.20acitylandmarkbuiltin1891stilloverlooksthepark,butthe buildingisnowaresidencefortheelderly.Thenewelementaryschoolis nextdoor. WhatwasdistinctiveaboutMr.Putnamsschoolleadershiphaslong sincefadedfrommemory.Butsomeresidentssaytheycannothelpbut museabouthimastheypassthefountainslargestonebasininVeterans Park,theboroughsoldest. Ijusthaveapictureofwhatthisneighborhoodmusthavelookedlike 100yearsago,withthechildrengoingofftoschoolandtheprincipal standingonthesteps,saidPeterMcNally,52,whowaswalkinghisdog. WeepingBeechTreeLandmarkPlaque

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SamuelParsons,ahorticulturalistandnurseryowner,broughtbacka cuttingofaweepingbeechfromBelgiumandplanteditin1847between BowneStreetandParsonsBoulevardinFlushing,Queens.Itflourished, withitstrunkeventuallygrowingto14feetincircumferenceandits branchesspreading85feet.ItbecamealivingmemorialtoParsons,who, accordingtotheparksdepartment,providedmanyoftheoriginaltreesfor CentralParkandProspectPark. AplaquededicatedtoParsonsisaffixedtoarockinwhatisnow WeepingBeechPark.TheparkdoublesasthegroundsofKingsland Homestead,ashingledhousewithagambrelroof,datingtothe1780s, thatinthelate1960swasmovedtothecurrentsite,onlandthatwas formerlytheParsonsnursery. In1998,attheageof151,Parsonsstreesuccumbedtotheforcesof nature.Butthetreeendures,initsway,throughastandofyoungbeeches. Theyweredepositednaturallywhenthemothertreewasstillalive, saidEllissaFazio,theexecutivedirectoroftheQueensHistoricalSociety, referringto10weepingbeechesthatdotthegrounds.Theyarethe daughtertrees. LithuanianFlyersMemorial Inthe1930s,afterCharlesLindberghs1927nonstopsoloflightacross theAtlantic,crossingflightsbecamealltherage.Theparksdepartments HistoricalSignsProjectsays:Theworldwasfascinatedwithwhatwas calledAtlanticfever. In1933,twoAmericansborninLithuania,Steponas(Stephen)Darius andStasys(Stanley)Girenas,setofffromFloydBennettFieldinBrooklyn inaBellancaCH300Pacemaker.TheywereboundforKaunas, Lithuania. Justthreehoursshortoftheirdestination,thecopilotsdiedwhenthe planecrashedinaforestinGermany.Whathappenedremainsamystery, althoughonetheoryholdsthatNaziGermany,whichwouldattack Lithuaniain1941,shottheplanedown. ThemenbecameinstantheroesinLithuania.Thegovernmentissued

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postagestampsandcurrencywiththeirimagesandrenamedbridges, streetsandschoolsintheirhonor. TheirtransAtlanticflightwasalsomemorializedherein1957,with thenamingofLithuaniaSquareinWilliamsburg,Brooklyn,atriangle boundedbySouthSecondStreet,HewesStreetandUnionAvenue.The LithuaniansofGreaterNewYorkraisedmoneyforagraniteflagstaffbase thatshowsthetwofliersinbasrelief. WhiletheirstorymaymeanlittletomostAmericans,forLithuanians itspartofourfolklore,saidArturasRozenas,anassistantprofessorof politicsatNewYorkUniversity,whowasspeakingnotasanexpertonthe fliers,butasaLithuaniannational. Theresafourlinepoemaboutthemthateverychildlearns,he added.AskingaLithuanianwhotheFlierswere,hesaid,wouldbelike askingwhoGeorgeWashingtonis.
A version of this article appears in print on January 12, 2014, on page MB1 of the New York edition with the headline: Fame, Unlike Stone, Is Fleeting.

2014 The New York Times Company

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