Friday, November 26, 2010

Long "Lost" Abraham Lincoln Statue To Return To Grand Army Plaza

LINCOLN CENTER: - The 10-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln will be moved from Prospect Park to Grand Army Plaza.
$ 64,000 has been allocated to move the 9-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln from Concert Grove in Prospect Park to near its original location at the northern end of Grand Army Plaza, according to the New York Post. For the last 50 years, the statue has faced a chain-link fence near Wollman Rink. Additional funds are being sought.(Photo: Paul Martinka)

President Lincoln is holding the Emancipation Proclamation and is pointing to the words "shall be forever free." The statue was designed by Henry Kirk Brown (1814–1886) and was dedicated on October 21, 1869. It remained at that location until May, 1895.

According to Richard Kessler, editor of Brooklyn Mirador, the elliptical Plaza was dedicated in 1867 with its axis pointed at the Manhattan mansion of William Backhouse Astor, the heir to the John Jacob Astor fortune. The centerpiece was a simple fountain named the "Fountain of the Golden Spray." In 1869, the Lincoln statue was dedicated at the north end of the Plaza's axis, facing north towards the unseen mansion. Olmsted, Vaux and Stranahan (the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner) were strong Lincoln supporters. Astor was not.

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This early 1890s photo shows the Lincoln statue in its original location at the northern end of Prospect Park Plaza (now Grand Army Plaza). Note the Plaza's alignment of the unadorned Arch, the Calvert Vaux Fountain and the Lincoln statue. (Photo: William Lee Younger)

In 1895 (three years after Duncan's Arch framed the fountain, statue, and invisible corridor to the mansion) Olmsted retired, the Lincoln statue was picked up, turned around and abandoned in the Prospect Concert Grove. In November, Vaux was found drowned in Gravesend Bay. Six months later, the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was Constitutional.

In 1965, two years after his assassination, the JFK bust was unveiled in the spot where Lincoln stood.

Henry Kirk Brown has a number important works in our park system including two in Union Square Park - one of President Lincoln (1868) in the north end, and one in the south, the equestrian statue of George Washington, the oldest sculpture (1856) in possession of the New York City Parks Department, and reportedly the first ever purchased by the agency. – Geoffrey Croft


After more than a century in exile, Abraham Lincoln is finally coming home, according to the New York Post.

Plans are in the works to move a larger-than-life bronze statue of "the Great Emancipator" that is tucked away in Prospect Park back to its original, prominent location at nearby Grand Army Plaza.

The 10-foot-tall statue, the first in the Union to honor the 16th president, was dedicated in October 1869, just four years after Lincoln's assassination.

The sculpture, which depicts the president draped in a cape and reading from a book, originally stood in what used to be known simply as "the Plaza," an oval parcel of land outside the park's entrance on Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue.

In 1896, it was moved out of the shadow of the eight-story tall Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Brooklyn's tribute to the Union troops who died in the Civil War, to the Concert Grove in the park.

In 1960, the Wollman ice-skating rink was built nearby and a chain-link fence was constructed, detracting from the statue, which sits on a 20-foot stone pedestal.

"For the last 50 years, Abe has been looking at a chain-link fence," said Eugene Patron, of the Prospect Park Alliance, which is spearheading the effort to move the statue.

"It's still in the works, but the idea is to bring him back to Grand Army Plaza."

"The location he was in is not deserving of such a historical statue and prominent figure in our history," said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. "I am happy that he is going to a more appropriate location."

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Henry Kirke Brown's statue of Abraham Lincoln in Prospect Park Plaza, Brooklyn ca. 1880. In 1866, the War Fund Committee of the City of Brooklyn organized a $1.00 subscription for a memorial to President Lincoln (1809 -1865) who was assassinated the previous year. (Sterograph from Robert Dennis Collection, New York Public Library)

Henry Kirke Brown was one of the first American sculptors to cast his own bronzes. He settled in the City of Brooklyn where he worked from his studio.

Read More:

New nabe for old Abe
New York Post - November 26, 2010 - By John Doyle

Honest, Abe to return to Grand Army Plaza
The Brooklyn Paper - February 4, 2009 - By Mike Mclaughlin


  1. Notice that the Lincoln figure was rotated 90 deg. from it's original mount with respect to the pedestal? Evidently 1896 had it's share of dummies also.

  2. The return of the Lincoln Statue to Grand Army Plaza is planned. After 115 years in exile, it has been determined that Lincoln will now face South and watch HIS Civil War Plaza from across multiple lanes of traffic. A sad decision. A location exists which is true to the motives which ruled its original placement. The Lincoln statue should stand on the Plaza’s axis, between Defenders Arch and Bailey Fountain and FACE NORTH. Overlooking the large public area surrounding the fountain basin, he will transform Grand Army Plaza into THE Civil War Memorial.
    From the fountain, Lincoln will be silhouetted in front of the Arch. From the park, looking through the Arch, Lincoln faces the Empire State Building. Class trips. Political speeches. After dinner strolls. A history tour destination. Celebrate Decoration Day.
    By remaining loyal to Lincoln and the plaza’s planners, we revitalize Grand Army Plaza.

    In an April 12 New York Times Op-Ed piece, author of “Slaves in the Family,” Edward Bell says “It is said that the South lost the war, but won the Peace. That is, while slavery was ended, white supremacy grew into the law of the land.” This truth is mirrored in the history of Grand Army Plaza and its Lincoln Statue.

    When our Civil War Memorial Plaza opened to the public in 1867, its axis was aimed at the Manhattan mansion of William Astor. Documented nowhere, but clearly visible for the past 80 years. Calvert Vaux, selected by Parks Commissioner James Stranahan convinced his Central Park partner, Frederick Law Olmsted, to join him in the redesign of Brooklyn Park. Both Stranahan and Olmsted had extensive, well-documented credentials as dedicated Lincoln supporters. Astor and his circle of Northern Democrats and merchants had been openly opposed to the war and Lincoln.

    The nation’s first statue dedicated to the assassinated President was unveiled in 1869
    at the north end of the Plaza’s axis. Facing north, holding the Emancipation Proclamation, he points to the words “shall be forever free,” and confronts those in the mansion who opposed him: The North has won the war. Slavery is Abolished.

    But political tides had turned with the disputed 1877 Presidential selection of Rutherford Hayes. Reconstruction was aborted. Lincoln’s legacy reversed. Stranahan and his Commission replaced. Three years after the Arch framed Lincoln’s message, in 1895, Olmsted retired. The Lincoln statue was turned around, marched into Prospect Park and abandoned in the Concert Grove. In November, Vaux drowned in Gravesend Bay.

    Six months later the Supreme Court declares racial segregation Constitutional. Separate but Equal. The South wins the peace. Jim Crow is the law of the land.
    In 1897, the Waldorf Astoria replaces the Fifth Avenue Astor mansions. In 1898 Brooklyn is absorbed by New York and the Arch is draped in statuary.

    In 1931, the Empire State Building replaces the Waldorf Astoria. Built at the same time, Bailey Fountain is unveiled as the Plaza’s centerpiece. On top of the fountain, Felicity and Wisdom are parents leading their child from Prospect Park. They look through the Arch and see the Tower of the Empire State Building framed perfectly.

    In 1965, two years after his assassination, the John F Kennedy Bust was unveiled, facing north, on the spot where the Lincoln statue stood. In 1970, two years after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, a lamp post on the grassy median of the Prospect’s main entrance was completed. It is aligned with the Plaza’s axis. From the concrete base of this lamp post, looking north through the opening in the Arch, you see the Empire State Building. Its tower bisects both the Arch and Bailey fountain. A beautiful view at night. You witness the Plaza’s alignment with the site of the Astor mansion. Vaux, Olmsted and Stranahan planned the position of the elliptical Plaza and statue. The Lincoln statue should face North along the Plaza's axis.