Episode 2. Column of Columbus

While Christopher Columbus is a contested figure today, in 1892 he was an incredibly popular figure and many different parts of New York’s population wanted to associate themselves with him, from Italian-Americans to the established blue bloods of New York society.  Italian-Americans erected the column and statue, while sculptures and a temporary arch was also constructed. There were also parades and celebrations.

Here are some images so you can see the details of the column and the arch.

Column of Columbus

Tatzu Nishi’s  “Discovering Columbus” (Sep 20, 2012 – Dec 2, 2012)


Discovering Columbus, Public Art Fund

Tatzu Nishi (b. 1960) is a Japanese art who creates  temporary art installations attempt to challenge and transform our experiences of public monuments. He created a living around the Column of Columbus–taking an elevator you could go up and visit the column, watch TV and gaze out at NYC. It was a truly cool way to experience the column, but it also reminds us that artist are constantly engaging with monuments like the column, which were on the cutting age of art in their day.

Temporary Arch to Columbus

Temporary Arch to Columbus, Library of Congress

The arch was located at 59th and 5th Avenue (so where the Plaza hotel and Grand Army Plaza are today). The arch was not to everyone’s taste. Its columns were painted in a pinkish/red in certain places, which is more a kin to the colorful nature of historical reliefs and sculpture in antiquity.

This historical photograph also shows how the procession passed through the arch in the 1892 celebrations.

The arch was going to be very expensive to erect, so it was never built. Plus New York City had two other arches (which were almost completed at this time): the Washington Square Arch (which had also started life as a temporary arch), north of Washington Square, and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Brooklyn. I’ve included a reference to my articles on these arches, so you can read about them in a bit more detail.


Bibliography for Arches in New York City

Macaulay-Lewis, E. “The Architecture of Memory and Commemoration: The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch Brooklyn, New York and the Reception of Classical Architecture,” Classical Receptions Journal 2016, 8 (4): 447–78.

Macaulay-Lewis, E. “Triumphal Washington: New York City’s ‘Roman’ Arch,” in War as Spectacle: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Display of Armed Conflict, eds. Anastasia Bakogianni and Valerie Hope (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 209–39.