When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux laid out the design of Central Park, they included a “Grand Circle” fronting the 8th Avenue entrance. Like the circular traffic rotary around the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile in Paris, it was intended to create a wide, open vista as visitors approached the park.
As the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas neared, the Italian-American newspaper Il Progresso initiated a fund raising campaign for a monument to be erected in the center of the circle. Dedicated in the Fall of 1892, it was created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo. Bronze rostra, or “ships’ beaks,” decorate the column, representing the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria – echoing the rostra of captured ships that decorated the Roman Forum. Near the base, a marble angel contemplates a globe.
|photo nypl collection|
The Columbus Monument is the point from which all distances from New York City are measured. Today Christopher Columbus no longer stands alone in traffic and New Yorkers have gained a welcomed refuge from the stress of the city.