Posts Tagged ‘City Hall Park history’

The offensive statue kicked out of a city park

February 25, 2013

To artist Frederick MacMonnies, it probably sounded like a crowd-pleaser.

Commissioned in 1915 by the city to create a sculpture for City Hall Park, he carved a 55-ton piece of marble into “Civic Virtue”: a figure of a strapping young man holding a sword while standing astride two beautiful women, who symbolized vice and corruption.


“It represents virtue rising or overcoming temptation,” said Macmonnies.

But even before the 22-foot statue was unveiled in the park in 1922, it was under fire. Women’s groups claimed it was demeaning to have virtue represented by a male figure, while women were equated with vice.

CivicvirtuecloseupMacMonnies found the argument ridiculous and blamed “literal” minded people who didn’t think allegorically. “Temptation is usually made feminine because only the feminine really attracts and tempts,” quoted the Times.

Mayor Hylan thought it was “a travesty of good taste,” but the statue went up anyway, earning the nickname “Rough Guy” because of his naked, chiseled, somewhat caveman-like features.

Throughout the 1920s, petitions were filed to have Civic Virtue removed, and in the 1930s, with City Hall Park set for a beautification project, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses stated that he wanted it gone.

By 1941, rumor had it that Mayor LaGuardia was tired of seeing Civic Virtue’s muscular butt from City Hall. The statue was banished to Queens Borough Hall, where it languished for seven decades.

Last year, Civic Virtue, falling apart and still lacking respect, found a new home: Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where officials plan to restore it.

[Photo at right: from the Bridge and Tunnel Club]

The much-maligned city hall post office

July 31, 2010

If you’re into mansard roofs and colonnades, the 1878 federal post office building that once stood at the southern end of City Hall Park was for you.

New Yorkers generally hated it though. As soon as it opened, it was called “Mullet’s Monstrosity” after architect Alfred B. Mullet.

An “architectural eyesore” chimed in the New York Times.

Plans to tear it down were in the works since 1920. But it stood until 1938, unloved, in the shadow of the heralded Woolworth Building across the street.

This postcard, from 1911, shows the building, plus people who look like they’re waiting for the trolley.

The flag at the top and flags in the window are clues that it must be a holiday. Fourth of July, judging by the few umbrellas in the image?