Posts Tagged ‘Mayor LaGuardia’

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]

A wartime service at Columbus Circle

September 30, 2008

Before the Trump International Hotel and the Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle was a not-glitzy gathering place for Italian-American rallies and parades. This photo was taken in 1943. On Columbus Day of that year, The New York Times wrote:

“Because of the war and especially because Italy, the native land of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of America, is suffering such a tragic fate, the celebration tomorrow and Tuesday of Columbus Day will be more spiritual in character than ever before in the history of the United States.”

On Columbus Day the previous year, 25,000 Italian-Americans came out to show their support for the Allies, and Mayor LaGuardia gave a speech praising their loyalty and urging tolerance of minorities, as Americans of Italian decent were considered back then.