A beautiful Bronx statue of a mythical creature

The South Bronx is not where you’d expect to see an ornate white marble monument featuring mermaids, dolphins, nude women, and seashells.

But that’s where you’ll find the Lorelei Fountain, at 161st Street and the Grand Concourse. It honors Heinrich Heine, a 19th century German poet who immortalized the mythical creature Lorelei in a poem.

“According to legend, the maiden was transformed into a siren after throwing herself into the [Rhine] river,” states the website for Joyce Kilmer Park, where the statue is located.

“She could be heard singing from a rock along the river, her voice hypnotizing sailors to sleep, and then to their death. The bas-reliefs around the pedestal include a profile of Heine. Other decorative and allegorical motifs include a frog, a bird, and a skull symbolizing mortality.”

The statue, completed in 1893, (above, in a NYPL digital collection photo) wasn’t intended for the Bronx; it was supposed to go up in Heine’s home city of Dusseldorf.

Declined in part because of anti-Semitism (Heine was Jewish), a group of German-Americans purchased the statue and unveiled it in 1899. It was rededicated, and moved a few blocks away, a century later.

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6 Responses to “A beautiful Bronx statue of a mythical creature”

  1. bigcitiesbrightlights Says:

    i’ve seen it last time i’ve been in nyc, it’s beautiful! and it is a random place for such a statue, loved it anyway!

  2. AL Says:

    This is about 3 or 4 blocks from Yankee Stadium, we live on 158th and Melrose, it’s a stones throw…when my boyfriends mother remarried she took her photos in front of the fountain.

    • Rich Says:

      Did your boyfriend’s mother happen to get married in the Bronx Courthouse? I did…then we walked across the street to the Park where the statue is and looked down to Yankee Stadium.

  3. Judith Miller Says:

    Beautifully written piece that reminds us of how much there is to see and learn about New York. Always amazing.

  4. Neil Says:

    In the mid 1960’s, when I was an elementary school student in PS 114 and lived on 164th street and Walton Avenue, the statue was in the park on 164th street between Walton Avenue and the Grand Concourse. My friends and I would play a form of curb ball against the marble surrounding the sculpture. There was a further outer wall beyond a circular plaza which was our infield. It was a lot of fun, with mothers usually sitting on park benches while we played safely outside of their immediate view. I brings back good memories of fun times with friends in what then was a very close community where everyone looked our for everyone else’s children. Joyce Kilmer park, where this was located, was a great place for touch football and softball pick up games, participated in by kids from both sides of the grand concourse, many of whom lived in 975 Walton Avenue. Snow ball fights also occurred there, and kids loved putting the seed pods from the maple trees on their noses. It is a vignette of lost times, but good times, and I am sure many have fond memories, as I do, of this past. The New York Times once reported that this statue was supposed to be placed at Fifth Avenue and 59th street after it arrived from Germany, but that it was decided that it wasn’t architecturally or artistically sufficient for that location. That was Manhattan’s loss and the Bronx’s gain. It is truly a beautiful sculpture. If anyone from PS 114 thinks they may know me, please feel free to comment providing me with contact information. It would a pleasure to reconnect.

    • Rich Says:

      Nice story and great memories. The Lorelei Statue has a special place in my past and heart too. I was married at the Bronx Courthouse in September 1976. I will never forget the image of the Lorelei Statue with Yankee Stadium in the background when leaving the courthouse after the marriage ceremony.

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