New York Architecture Images- Central Park

The Grand Army Plaza


Augustus Saint-Gaudens


across 59th Street from Central Park






stone, bronze, etc




The resplendent gold-leaf General William Tecunseh Sherman Statue at Grand Army Plaza  was the last major work of distinguished American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and won a Grand Prix at the Paris Exposition of 1900.



Completed in 1916 Grand Army Plaza takes its name from the Grand Army of the Potomac, the Union Army of the Civil War. This extraordinary Plaza located on the east side at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South is really a semicircle divided into two halves by Central Park South which bisects it.
Aside from its status as the main east side gateway to the Park it has its own special significance to residents of the city and visitors alike. Like Plazas in other cities it defines New York as a center of culture and achievement. On the north side of the Plaza stands a brightly gilded bronze statue of the Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, the individual given much of the credit for ending the Civil War. His 1864 March to the Sea through the southern states dispersed the Confederacy and shattered their resistance. On the southern side opposite the Plaza Hotel stands the Pulitzer Memorial Fountain, a gift of the publisher of the old New York World. At the high peak of this tiered marble fountain stands the bronze statue of Pomona, the Roman goddess of abundance clearly a prophetic tribute to the growth and magnificence of the surrounding area upon which she gazes. Her back faced the former Vanderbilt Mansion that occupied the space now inhabited by Bergdorf Goodman, a fact not lost on historians who have read much into the placement. The bisected Plaza was influenced by the layout of the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The halves are bordered on their curved ends by Bradford Callery pear trees and in the spring their blooms fall to the ground making a dazzling white carpet for the carriages and pedestrians that pass beneath. Followed shortly afterward by the later blooming tulips the Plaza glows with these colorful blooms which rise up from the flower beds located on the far corner perimeter.

 "It was one of the rare events in New York’s grid, an open space at the corner of Cental Park, and for anyone heading up Fifth Avenue, as every tourist was sure to do, it was the introduction to ‘millionaries; row,’" observed Gregory Gilmartin in his superb book, "Shaping the City, New York and the Municipal Art Society," Clarkson Potter, 1995 

"Olmstead and Vaux [the designers of Central Park] weren’t adept at designing urban spaces, and their plaza was a strange beast: a stand of trees in an oddly shaped traffic island. In the 1890’s {sculptor Karl] Bitter was one of the leading figures in the campaign to block construction of both the Heine monument and the Soldiers and Sailors’ Memorial in the Plaza. His argument was that the Plaza didn’t need a fountain or a column sitting in its middle, it needed to be defined as an architectural room. In 1899 Bitter published an article on public sculpture in Municipal Affairs, singling out points in the city where monuments seemed necessary, and putting forward his own design for the Plaza. Bitter imagined the Plaza as a forecourt to the park, half embedded in the urban grid, half in greenery. He designed two symmetrical plazas, on either side of Fifty-Ninth Street, each ending in a fountain of shallow basins modeled on those in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In 1902, the statue of General Sherman by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was installed just off Fifth Avenue, between Fifty-Ninth and Sixtieth Streets. Otherwise, nothing happened until 1911, when Joseph Pulitzer died and left $50,000 for a fountain in the Plaza. In choosing the Plaza, Pulitzer threw done one last challenge to his bitter rival, William Randolph Hearst, who’d just erected the unfortunate Maine Memorial on Columbus Circle . Pulitizer must have seen Bitter's 1899 scheme, since he asked that his fountain resemble those in the Place de la Concorde" in Paris, Gilmartin wrote.

Bitter was recommended by a committee, but was against the plan because it did not take into consideration the entire space. Eventually Thomas Hastings, the architect, was commissioned for an overall plan and he selected Bitter to create a sculpture, Abundance, for the fountain. "The day he finished the clay model, Bitter was run over and killed by a car outside the Metropolitan Opera House," Gilmartin recounted.



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