9. Green-Wood Cemetery’s Civic Virtue

Triumph of Civic Virtue statue in Green-Wood CemeteryCivic Virtue in its newest home in Green-Wood Cemetery

 The Civic Virtue Triumphant Over Rightousness statue may have been the city’s most controversial in history, prior to the push to add more female figures. The allegorical piece was commissioned in 1909 and installed in 1922 and installed in Manhattan’s City Hall Park, as part of a fountain. The statue is 22 tons of marble carved from a single block, meant to represent the triumph of virtue over corruption and vice.

The problem: the nearly naked male figure is triumph, towering and dominating over the two female mermaids who represented corruption and vice. Women found this misogynist and offensive, and even men thought it looked like the virtue was kicking or trampling the female figures. By 1929, James J. Walker, the Commissioner of Public Works was calling the sculpture “the Fat Boy standing in a mass of worms,” and advocated for its removal. The statue was finally moved in 1941 to Queens Borough Hall. It was not well-liked in Queens either, with Anthony Weiner even suggesting to sell the statue on Craigslist.

In 2011, Green-Wood Cemetery President Richard J. Moylan offered to give the statue a home in the cemetery. By early 2013, Civic Virtue was placed among other statues by sculptors contemporary to MacMonnies, like Daniel Chester French and John Quincy Adams Award. The cemetery even funded its renovation. After 90 years, Civic Virtue seems to have found its resting place. The fountain portion remains, however, along Queens Boulevard. Green-Wood Cemetery has recently expanded the opening days of its entrances, so now the entrances at Fort Hamilton Parkway and Prospect Park West Entrances that used to be only open on weekends are open seven days as week (and of course the main entrance).