Columbus Monument (New York City)

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Columbus Monument
Columbus Circle - Statue.JPG
The monument in 2006
SubjectChristopher Columbus
LocationNew York City, New York, U.S.
Coordinates40°46′05″N 73°58′55″W / 40.768087°N 73.981896°W / 40.768087; -73.981896Coordinates: 40°46′05″N 73°58′55″W / 40.768087°N 73.981896°W / 40.768087; -73.981896

The Columbus Monument is a 76-foot (23 m) column installed at the center of Manhattan's Columbus Circle in the U.S. state of New York. The monument was created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo.[1]


The monument consists of a 14-foot (4.3 m) marble statue of Columbus atop a 27.5-foot (8.4 m) granite rostral column[2] placed on a four-stepped granite pedestal.[3] The column is decorated with bronze projections representing Columbus' ships: the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María; although actually they are depicted as Roman galleys (after the rostral column classical tradition) instead of caravels. Its pedestal features an angel holding a globe.[1]


The monument was one of three planned as part of the city's 1892 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the Americas.[3] Originally, the monument was planned to be located in Bowling Green or somewhere else in lower Manhattan. By the time Russo's plan was decided upon in 1890, a commission of Italian businessmen from around the United States had contributed $12,000 of the $20,000 needed to build the statue (equivalent to $346,000 of the $576,000 in cost in current dollars).[4] The statue was constructed with funds raised by Il Progresso, a New York City-based Italian-language newspaper.[1]

Russo created parts of the Columbus Column in his Rome studio and in other workshops in Italy;[3] the bronze elements were cast in the Nelli Foundry.[5] The completed column was shipped to the United States in September 1892 to be placed within the "circle at Fifty-ninth Street and Eighth Avenue".[6] Once the statue arrived in Manhattan, it was quickly transported to the circle.[2] The monument was officially unveiled with a ceremony on October 13, 1892, as part of the 400th anniversary celebration.[7][8][9]: 287 

During the construction of the New York City Subway's Eighth Avenue Line (A, ​B, ​C, and ​D trains) underneath the circle in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Columbus statue was shored up with temporary supports.[10] Even so, the statue was shifted two inches north from its original position, and the top of the statue tilted 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). As a result, the statue was repaired and cleaned in 1934.[11] The monument received some retouching in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage, and in turn, the monument's own 100th anniversary.[9]: 288  It was also rededicated in that same year.[12]

In 2012, the statue was used as the centerpiece of an interactive art installation by Tatzu Nishi entitled Discovering Columbus. The Public Art Fund described the project as follows:

Nishi’s project re-imagines the colossal 13-foot-tall statue of Columbus standing in a fully furnished, modern living room. Featuring tables, chairs, couch, rug, and flat-screen television, the décor reflects the artist’s interpretation of contemporary New York style. He even designed wallpaper inspired by memories of American popular culture, having watched Hollywood movies and television as a child in Japan. Discovering Columbus offers both a unique perspective on a historical monument and a surreal experience of the sculpture in a new context. Allowing us to take a journey up six flights of stairs to a fictional living room, Tatzu Nishi invites us to discover for ourselves where the imagination may lead.[13]

Amid the 2017 monument controversies in the United States, an issue arose over the statue due to criticism of Columbus's mistreatment of the native people on Hispaniola. In August of that year, the far-right Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, had resulted in one death and several injuries. Following that rally, Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a "90-day review" of possibly "hateful" monuments across the city to determine if any of them, including the Columbus Column, warranted either removal or recontextualization (e.g. by explanatory plaques).[14][15][16] Although calls to remove the monument were supported by those criticizing Columbus's actions, the proposed removal was opposed by some sectors of the city's Italian American community and Columbus Day Parade organizers.[17][18] After two instances of vandalism in September 2017, including one incident where the statue was defaced with red paint,[16] full-time security measures were put around the column ahead of the year's parade.[19]

On September 20, 2018, in a unanimous decision, the New York State Board of Historic Preservation voted to place the monument on the state historic register and nominate it to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), due to its significance.[20] Two months later the National Park Service added the monument to the NRHP.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "New York – Columbus Monument". Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "ITALY'S GIFT IS HERE" (PDF). The Press. New York, New York. September 5, 1892. p. 2. Retrieved October 13, 2017 – via
  3. ^ a b c "COLUMBUS MEMORIALS.; THREE OF THEM SOON TO BE PRESENTED TO THIS CITY" (PDF). The New York Times. June 13, 1892. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  4. ^ "FROM ITALIANS TO AMERICA.; THE GREAT STATUE OF COLUMBUS TO ADORN NEW-YORK" (PDF). The New York Times. July 9, 1890. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "Central Park Monuments – Columbus Monument". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  6. ^ "THE COLUMBUS STATUE.; SAFE IN PORT ON BOARD THE TRANSPORT GARIGLIANO" (PDF). The New York Times. September 6, 1892. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "Columbus is Unveiled by a Little Girl" (PDF). New York Herald. October 13, 1892. p. 6. Retrieved October 13, 2017 – via
  9. ^ a b Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (2010). The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11465-2.
  10. ^ Collins, F.a. (October 10, 1926). "NEW SUBWAY BURROWS UNDER NEW YORK; Old Open Trench Methods No Longer Employed – Complicated Machinery Carries Huge Task Forward". The New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  11. ^ "Columbus Gleams White As Circle Job Is Finished". The New York Times. November 10, 1934. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Barron, James (June 21, 1991). "At a Party for Columbus, a Few Uninvited Guests". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  13. ^ "Discovering Columbus - Public Art Fund". Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  14. ^ Neuman, William (August 30, 2017). "Ordering Review of Statues Puts de Blasio in Tricky Spot". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  15. ^ Helmore, Edward (August 25, 2017). "New York mayor considers Christopher Columbus statue removal". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  16. ^ a b Katz, Brigit (September 13, 2017). "Christopher Columbus Monument Defaced in Central Park". Smithsonian. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  17. ^ Rosenberg, Zoe (August 23, 2017). "Elected officials call for removal of Christopher Columbus statue near Central Park". Curbed NY. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  18. ^ "Columbus Day Parade Organizers Fight To Keep Statue In Columbus Circle". CBS New York. August 30, 2017. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  19. ^ Wootson Jr., Cleve R. (October 7, 2017). "Why police have to guard a statue of Christopher Columbus in New York around the clock". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  20. ^ State designates Columbus Circle monument as landmark Retrieved October 5, 2018
  21. ^ "Weekly List 20181123". U.S. National Park Service. November 23, 2018. Retrieved November 28, 2018.

External links