Bronx Community College

West 181st Street at
University Avenue

Hall of Fame for Great Americans dedicated 1901
560-foot long open air colonnade
5 1/2" x 4 1/4"
with 102 bronze busts

Artists include:
Herbert Adams, Robert Aitken, Richmond Barthe, A. Stirling Calder, Jo Davidson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Malvina Hoffman, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Joseph Kiselewski, Frederick MacMonnies, and Lorado Taft, among others


One of the most unique sculptural ensembles in the Bronx, or anywhere for that matter, is the 560-foot long open-air colonnade called the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Dedicated in 1901, it was designed by Stanford White, one of the country's most esteemed architects, for the University Heights campus of New York University. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans came into being as an extension of the plans developed by White for a rural campus for New York University which, then as now, was located exclusively in Washington Square in Greenwich Village. In order to compete with the park-like settings of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, the leaders of both New York University and Columbia decided almost simultaneously to relocate from their downtown addresses to environments more congenial for academic study. (The same could be said for the Lehman College campus which, when it originally opened as the uptown campus of Hunter College in 1931, provided an alternative to the noisy urban environment of Hunter College downtown.)

Said to be among the best examples of White's work, the original three buildings - Hall of Philosophy, Hall of Languages, and the Gould Memorial Library - were to be linked along the backs of the buildings by an open-air arcade. Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, the Chancellor of New York University, believed that this architectural folly had to have some educational justification and decided to use this space as a "Hall of Fame" for prominent Americans.

Based on European models, the Pantheons in Rome and Paris and Westminster Abbey in London, America's Hall of Fame was intended as a national patriotic and educational shrine. MacCracken sought national representation and vowed to make the election process as democratic as possible so that groups such as statesmen or the military would not dominate, as was common in Europe. Furthermore, the election process began with nominations from the entire American population. For the first election, which took place in 1900, more than 1,000 names were submitted by the public. From this group an initial list was compiled by the New York University Senate. They, in turn, added an additional 100 names and produced a list which was then submitted to a committee of prominent citizens who represented the entire country. The first list contained a total of 234 names from which 29 were elected by the required majority vote. Names were then added every five years until 1973 when New York University deeded control of its Bronx Campus and the Hall of Fame to the State of New York. Today, the sections and numbers of persons per section are as follows: Authors (19); Educators (7); Preachers and Theologians (5); Humanitarians, Social and Economic Reformers (4); Scientists (10); Engineers, Architects (l); Physicians and Surgeons (3); Inventors (9); Missionaries and Explorers (l); Military (6); Lawyers and Judges (6); Statesmen (18); Businessmen and Philanthropists (2); Artists, Musicians and Actors (8). Among those honored are: Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Fulton, Thomas Alva Edison, Daniel Boone, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Orville Wright, Mark Twain, George Washington Carver, Walter Reed, Susan B. Anthony, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, George Washington, Walt Whitman, Sidney Lanier, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John James Audubon, Jane Addams, James Abott McNeil Whistler, John Philip Sousa, and Booker T. Washington.

Commissions for the sculptured busts however, were not awarded until the early 1920s when an advisory committee was formed to oversee the selection of qualified sculptors. Over the years a number of important artists have created portrait busts for the Hall of Fame including: Herbert Adams, Robert Aitken, Richmond Barthe, A. Stirling Calder, Jo Davidson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Malvina Hoffman, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, Frederick MacMonnies, and Lorado Taft.

[More about the artists]

[More about the University Heights neighborhood]
[Visit the Hall of Fame for Great Americans website]