The John Purroy Mitchel Memorial Flagstaffs at the NYPL

The history of the NYPL's flagpoles, a monument to the boy mayor John Puroy Mitchel

In December 1911, two eighty-five  foot tall Oregon pine flag poles were erected on Fifth Avenue, in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library. One displayed the flag of the United States and the other, the flag of New York City. The bronze bases into which they were set were said to be among the most magnificent in the country.

Source: NYPL

These monumental bases were designed by Carrere and Hastings’, executed in the Menconi Brothers’ studio, and cast at the Tiffany Studio in Long Island City.  The bases gently rest upon four turtles and possess figures of adventure, civilization, conquest, and discovery. Situated between those figures are medallions depicting the races (Asian, American,  Caucasian,  Indian, and Negro). Above the figures are the signs of the Zodiac and owls, representing wisdom.  The monumental bases were restored in 2011 as a part of a fifty million dollar renovation of the New York Public Library.

 Source: NYPL

At one o’clock in the morning on the 28th of March 1941, two ninety-five foot tapered steel flagpoles, dedicated to John Purroy Mitchel), were erected in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library. The Parks Department transported these flagpoles to the library early in the morning to stave off any potential traffic interference. These flagpoles replaced the original 1911 wooden flagpoles, one of which was moved to Mitchel Square in Upper Manhattan (which was named after John Purroy Mitchel) to commemorate his service in the First World War and the other had been destroyed in a storm.  The northern flagpole honors Mitchel’s mayoral service with a plaque and the New York City flag and the southern flagpole memorializes his military service and is accompanied by the United States flag.

The monumental bases today:


 manhattan, new york public library

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