Sitting on pedestals of Tennessee marble, each base rests upon the shell of four bronze turtles, representing Time. Figures of Discovery, Conquest, Civilization and Adventure sit at each corner, while between each figure is a medallion of one of the four races: Asian, American Indian, Caucasian, and Negro. Above each figure is an owl, symbolizing Wisdom and encircling the base of each pole are the signs of the zodiac.
The bases were executed in the studios of the Menconi brothers and cast at the Tiffany Studios foundry in Long Island City. While Raffaele Menconi was the sculptor of the finished bases, his brother Joseph assisted with the plaster models. Italian-born Raffaele had a reputation for his clear understanding of the 16th Century Italian Mannerist style basic to Hastings’ design.
|One of the Menconi plaster models in preparation for forging. The medallion of the American Indian and Caucasian can be seen between the figures as well as the turtles below symbolizing Time -- NYPL Collection|
The extraordinary bases were broadly acclaimed the most beautiful in America.
At 1:00 am on April 27, 1941 the pine flagpoles were replaced with two tapered steel poles as memorials to Mayor John Purroy Mitchel who served the city during World War I years of 1914 through 1917.
As part of a $50 million Library restoration completed in February 2011, the magnificent bronze flagpole bases were cleaned and preserved. Often overlooked in the visual overload provided by Carrere & Hastings’ epic marble masterpiece, the bronze sculptural flagpole bases are extraordinary works of art.