MetroFocus joins former NYC Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe in Central Park for a look at some of its famous and obscure statuary, from literary giants to storybook characters.
Central Park is one of the city’s crown jewels, and 29 statues are some of the many gems set within it. Some, like the Bethesda Fountain, are well known, and others, like the statue of poet Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867), have fallen into obscurity despite their fine physical condition. Adrian Benepe developed a unique perspective while serving for 10 years as the Parks Commissioner: “There’s a constant parade of people wanting to put up statues and works of art in the park, and we say the park itself is a work of art.” Nevertheless, history has decorated Central Park with the work of an impressive array of American sculptors, including August Saint-Gaudens, John Quincy Adams Ward and Daniel Chester French. Meet rescue dog Balto and the rest on this tour with Adrian Benepe.
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This statue, also known as Bethesda Fountain, is on the Bethesda Terrace. The angel references a Biblical site and the Croton water system that first supplied New York City in 1842. The lily in the angel's hand represents the water's purity. 'Angel of the Waters' is the only statue that was commissioned for Central Park. Its sculptor, Emma Stebbins, was the first woman to receive a public art commission in New York City. Photo by MetroFocus.
The statue of Balto, by animal sculptor Frederick G. R. Roth, was erected 10 months after the famous sled dog completed a mission in 1925 that brought medication to children suffering from diphtheria in Nome, Alaska. Balto can be found at East Drive at 67th Street. Photo by MetroFocus.
The Literary Walk statue of poet Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867) was dedicated in Central Park 10 years after his death. As former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe explained to MetroFocus: "Famous in his day - no longer so famous - he's (Halleck) the reason cited for not putting more statues up" in the park. The Literary Walk is on the East Side at 65th Street. Photo by MetroFocus.
Still a well known writer to literature fans, poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) is among the writers displayed in sculpture on the Literary Walk of Central Park. The most famous lyrics by Scotland's national poet are to the song "Auld Lang Syne." The Literary Walk is on the East Side at 65th Street. Photo by MetroFocus.
The famous works of Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) include "Ivanhoe," "Rob Roy," and "The Lady of The Lake." According to former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, "Olmsted and Vaux [the designers of Central Park] didn't want Central Park to turn into a graveyard full of monuments and they really fought against it." Scott's statue is on the Literary Walk, on the East Side at 65th Street. Photo by MetroFocus.
The September episode of MetroFocus premieres Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. on WLIW, Sept. 20 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN, and Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on NJ TV.
MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, the Ford Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Charlotte and David Ackert, Jody and John Arnhold, Betty and John Levin, and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation. Corporate funding is provided by Mutual of America.