Located on the grounds of Bronx Community College a 630 foot open air monument to the history of the United States is neglected by its citizens and student body. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans has been in the University Heights section of the Bronx for over 100 years. It was built as a tribute to the soldiers of the American Revolution, who fought to retake this part of the city, which was then occupied by the British army.
Founded in 1900 by the former chancellor of New York University Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, The Hall of Fame for Great Americans was the first official Hall of Fame celebrating the people who helped form the identity of the United States.
The colonnade was designed by architect Stanford White, who built it in a neo-Classical style. The Hall of Fame has enough space for 102 bronze sculptures, but only 98 of the bronze busts fill the halls of the landmark. The last elections took place in 1976, with the final group consisting of Clara Burton, Luther Burbank and Andrew Carnegie. Their busts still have not been formally placed in the Hall of Fame due to financial restrictions.
The base for each of the busts features the recipient’s name, accomplishments and quotes. The bronze busts were made specifically for the Hall of Fame and could not be copied for 50 years. During its time, elections to see who would become immortalized in the Hall of Fame gained national attention as it was seen as a high honor to even be nominated for a place among Lincoln, Washington, the Wright Brothers and other eminent Americans.
Today there are no elections, no national press, practically no respect for this NYC landmark. The bronze sculptures and busts are deteriorating and remain largely forgotten. This beautiful landmark pays homage to the authors, scientists, teachers, presidents and artists who helped make this country what it is today. There have been attempts to restore the landmark, but little has come of it.
Two local historians Art and Susan Zuckerman host tours of the landmark as well as the Gould Memorial Library, also designed by Stanford White. We recommend a visit to this glorious landmark, which transports you from the Bronx to a place that feels like a Roman palace.
To know how much this place has inspired him, contact the author @TatteredFedora