This largely unknown collonade of busts on the campus of the Bronx Community College was recently thrust back into the spotlight when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the first removals in the history of the monument. While the monument may not have lived up to its original ambition to be an active collection of Americans of great renown, Governor Cuomo's decision demonstrates that this remains an active part of cultural and historical debates.
The most successful men, in the end, are those whose success is the result of steady accretion.
What You Will See
The idea of a Hall of Fame is well-known now. But it was a novelty when Dr. Henry MacCracken proposed a method for identifying and celebrating individuals who have gained particular renown in American life. The result was this outdoor collonade housing busts of those men and women who had been elected as members of what was to be an elite group. While initially popular, a lack of interest paired with a lack of funding and a change in how Americans celebrate history has left the Hall of Fame an interesting relic of the past. New elections for membership have not been held in almost 50 years.
Why You Should Go
Of all the museums, monuments, and historical sights in New York City, this might be the hardest one to sell to potential visitors. Decades of neglect show in the busts and the architecture. It is not particularly easy to get to. And, as often noted, contains a number of once-prominent figures who have been largely forgotten by current visitors. That might be the most interesting draw: as the New York Times recently put it, "If the Hall once reflected who's who, it has become a snapshot of who was who." It is a look at the history of history itself.