Shortly after Henry Kirke Brown’s bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln was unveiled at the southwest end of Union Square in 1870, one critic loathed it.
“It is said to be a statue of a man who deserves to be held in lasting remembrance as a true patriot, a sincere, unselfish, noble-hearted chief in times of great trouble and perplexity—Abraham Lincoln. But it does not resemble Mr. Lincoln. The lines which give the face character are not there. . . . “
“The sculptor has tried to atone for this defect by putting plenty of hard lines in the clothes, which are enough to distract anybody who thinks that dress need not of necessity increase the hideousness of man.”
“It is like the hideous nightmare . . . . How much it costs to make it and put it up, we do not know, but we will gladly receive subscriptions toward the expense of taking it down and sending it off to Chicago, where ‘works of art’ of this kind are highly appreciated.”
Yikes. The public seemed to be okay with this depiction of the martyred president—in those post-Civil War years very much beloved, even by New Yorkers.
But when Union Square underwent a redesign in 1930, and the Lincoln statue moved to its current home in the north-central part of the park (above), workers didn’t treat the statue with about as much respect as the Times did.
Here it is, looking like it was toppled over during an air raid in a hardscrabble, treeless Union Square of the Depression.
[Top photos: MCNY; middle: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; bottom: NYPL Digital Gallery]