4. A Monument at Columbus Circle Commemorates a Battleship Explosion
Located at the Merchants’ Gate of Central Park, visitors can find the USS Maine National Monument, designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle and sculpted by Attilio Piccirill and Charles Keck. Built in 1913, the statue honors the 260 American sailors who tragically died on February 15th, 1898 after the battleship exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. While the cause of the incident remains a mystery, New York City newspapers were quick to blame the Spanish for the supposed “attack.” The mysterious exploration eventually triggered the Spanish-American War, which would last eight months.
The idea for the public memorial was later put forth by newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst. It features a limestone base sculpted in the shape of a ship’s bow and surrounded by figures representing Justice, Peace, Victory, Courage and Fortitude. On the top of the pylon, sits a large gilded bronze figure of Columbia Triumphant (Liberty Triumphant) leading a seashell chariot pulled by three seahorses, which are reportedly cast from metal recovered from the guns of the ship. In 1995, the Central Park Conservancy restored the memorial by cleaning, pigeon-proofing and re-gilding the sculpture; missing parts were also carved and fitted into the monument.