10. U.S.S. Maine National Monument
The iconic gilded monument that towers over the Merchants’ Gate entrance to Central Park on West 59th Street at Columbus Circle, was originally intended for the mouth of New York Harbor.The colossal monument is dedicated to the nearly 260 American sailors who died in the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in 1898 in Havana, Cuba. The creation of a public monument to the victims of the Maine explosion was thanks to donations sent in to the New York Morning Journal at the behest of publisher William Randolph Hearst. Since it was dedicated to a tragedy at sea, Hearst felt, “A monument standing at the mouth of the Narrows, looking out over the ocean, would form a memorial worthy of the brave fellows who died while on duty for their country.”
The monument didn’t end up at the harbor and Central Park was not even the second choice location. After the harbor, the plan was to install it at what was then called Longacre Square, now Times Square, at the present location of the midtown TKTS booth. However, the designated spot for the monument already had a comfort station built on it, a detail over looked due to a “clerical error.” Finally, the architects, H. Van Buren Magonigle and Attilio Piccirilli settled on Merchant’s Gate where it was dedicated in 1913.
Measuring in at sixty-three feet high, the monument is one of the tallest in the city. Piccirilli created the giant gilded, bronze sculptures that top the marble pylon, as well as the marble figures that surround the base. Piccirilli and his five brothers operated a studio in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx where they created other iconic sculptures such as the lions in front of the New York Public Library (who are named Patience and Fortitude) and portions of the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village. The sculptures are rife with symbolism, and nautical imagery can be found all over the monument, from dolphins and seashells to a ship’s prow and seahorses.