Hall of Fame for Great Americans

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Hall of Fame Complex
NYC Landmark No. 0113
View of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Hall of Fame for Great Americans is located in New York City
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Hall of Fame for Great Americans is located in New York
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Hall of Fame for Great Americans is located in the United States
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
LocationBronx Community College campus, Bronx, New York
Coordinates40°51′31″N 73°54′52″W / 40.85861°N 73.91444°W / 40.85861; -73.91444Coordinates: 40°51′31″N 73°54′52″W / 40.85861°N 73.91444°W / 40.85861; -73.91444
Area2 acres (0.81 ha)
ArchitectWhite, Stanford; Multiple
Architectural styleClassical Revival, Beaux Arts
NRHP reference No.79001567 [1]
NYCL No.0113
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 7, 1979
Designated NYCLFebruary 15, 1966

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is an outdoor sculpture gallery located on the grounds of Bronx Community College in the Bronx, New York City. It is the first such hall of fame in the United States. Completed in 1900 as part of the University Heights campus of New York University,[2] the 630-foot (192 m) stone colonnade half-encircles the university library and houses 98 bronze portrait busts of a number of prominent Americans.[3] Designed by architect Stanford White (who also designed the library), the Beaux Arts structure was donated by Helen Gould, and was formally dedicated on May 30, 1901.[4] New York University (under severe financial distress) was forced to sell the campus in 1973 to the City University of New York and it became Bronx Community College.[5] Though the Hall's renown has itself faded, its architecture remains, and it stands as a secular national shrine not just to great men (and some women), but to Roman ideals of fame favored at the beginning of the 20th century.[6]


Origin and inspiration[edit]

The library in 1904; Hall of Fame for Great Americans arcade is visible left and right. Architect Stanford White.

The library and hall stand on the heights occupied by the British army in the autumn of 1776 during its successful attack upon Fort Washington. Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University, was the originator of The Hall of Fame.

It was the first hall of fame in the United States.[7] "Fame" here means "renown" (rather than today's more common meaning of "celebrity").[8] Chancellor MacCracken acknowledged inspiration from the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) in Munich, Germany.[9]

Other monuments of a similar purpose had been built earlier. King Ludwig I of Bavaria actually built two: a Walhalla Ruhmes- und Ehrenhalle near Regensburg, Germany, completed in 1842, and a Ruhmeshalle auf der Anhöhe (Bavarian Hall of Fame), in Munich, completed in 1853.[10][11] Chancellor McCracken described the evolution of the idea for the Hall of Fame:[9]

The Hall of Fame ... owes its inception in large part to hard facts of physical geography. After the three buildings which were to form the west side of the quadrangle of the New York University College of Arts and Science at University Heights had been planned, it was decided, in order to enlarge the quadrangle, to push them as near as possible to the avenue above the Harlem River. But since the campus level is 170 feet above high tide, and from 40 to 60 feet above the avenue, it was seen at once that the basement stories would stand out towards the avenue bare and unsightly. In order to conceal their walls, a terrace was suggested by the architect, to be bounded at its outer edge by a parapet or colonnade. But while aesthetics compelled the architect to invent the terrace with its parapet of colonnade, the university's necessity compelled the discovery of an educational use for the architect's structure. Like most persons who have visited Germany, the chairman was acquainted with the "Ruhmes Halle," built near Munich by the King of Bavaria. Like all Americans, he admired the use made of Westminster Abbey, and of the Pantheon in Paris. But the American claims liberty to adopt new and broad rules to govern him, even when following on the track of his Old-World ancestors. Hence it was agreed that admission to this Hall of Fame should be controlled by a national body of electors, who might, as nearly as possible, represent the wisdom of the American people.


North wing of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans showing Alexander Graham Bell and Eli Whitney

The memorial structure is an open-air colonnade, 630 feet in length with space for 102 bronze sculptures, designed in the neoclassical style by architect Stanford White. The library is similar to Low Library at Columbia, designed by White's partner Charles Follen McKim.[6] The colonnade also runs behind (west of) the Hall of Languages to the south, and the Hall of Philosophy to the north.[12]

Carved in stone on pediments of The Hall of Fame are the words "By wealth of thought, or else by mighty deed, They served mankind in noble character. In worldwide good they live forever more."

The base to each sculpture holds a bronze tablet bearing the name of the person commemorated, significant dates, achievements and quotations. Each bronze bust must have been made specifically for The Hall of Fame and must not be duplicated within 50 years of its execution.

Recent years[edit]

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is largely forgotten. For two decades before 1997, in fact, it lacked the funds to hold new elections or to commission busts of the people it elected, including Louis Brandeis, Clara Barton, Luther Burbank, and Andrew Carnegie. It took nineteen years to raise the $25,000 needed to commission the bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the late 1970s the state spent $3 million restoring the colonnade's crumbling foundation; more recently, it spent another $200,000 to restore the 98 bronze busts, many of which had deteriorated badly. By that time private gifts, which were always the Hall of Fame's primary source of support, had effectively ceased.

In 2001, Bronx Community College organized a US$1 million fund-raising effort to rebuild and expand the Hall of Fame.[13]


To be eligible for nomination, a person must have been a native born or naturalized (since 1914) citizen of the United States, must have been dead for 25 years (since 1922; from 1900 through 1920, a nominee had to be dead only 10 years) and must have made a major contribution to the economic, political, or cultural life of the nation. Nominees were elected by a simple majority vote, except from 1925 through 1940, when a 3/5 majority was required. In 1976 a point system replaced the majority vote. Two nominees, Constance Woolson (nominated in 1900) and Orville Wright (elected in 1965), were considered, although being dead only 6 and 17 years respectively.

MacCracken wanted to make sure that the people enshrined in his Hall of Fame were truly famous, not just memorable. So he established a board of electors, composed of men and women who were themselves possessed of some measure of renown, ostensibly people of great character and sound judgment. Over the years that body would include the most respected writers, historians, and educators of their day, along with scores of congressmen, a dozen Supreme Court justices, and six Presidents; seven former electors have themselves been elected to the Hall of Fame. To ensure that nominees would be evaluated with adequate sobriety and perspective, it was decided that no one could be elected who had not been dead for at least twenty-five years. Everyone thought that was just fine; after all, as the old maxim holds, 'Fame is a food that dead men eat'.[14]

The Hall of Fame soon became a focal point for US national pride:

It was a truly democratic institution — anyone could nominate a candidate, admission would be free, and although NYU served as a steward, raising funds and running the elections, the whole thing was technically the property of the American people. ... and people took it very, very seriously. Newspaper publishers used their editorial pages to lobby for or against nominees, and groups like the American Bar Association and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (helped elect "Stonewall" Jackson in 1955 and, without success, Jefferson Davis) waged extensive, expensive campaigns to get "their" candidates elected. Installation ceremonies were elaborate events. For a while the term "Hall of Famer" carried greater cachet than "Nobel laureate", and a hilltop in the Bronx seemed, to many, the highest spot in the country, if not the world.[15]

Classification of honorees[edit]

A floor tile at the Hall of Fame denoting the section set aside for busts of Teachers

The first 50 names were required to include representatives of a majority of 15 classes:

  • authors and editors
  • business men
  • inventors
  • missionaries and explorers
  • philanthropists and reformers
  • clergymen and theologians;
  • scientists
  • engineers and architects
  • lawyers and judges
  • musicians, painters, and sculptors
  • physicians and surgeons
  • politicians and statesmen
  • soldiers and sailors
  • teachers
  • distinguished men and women outside of these classes


Honorees of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Honoree Image Classification Lifetime Year inducted Sculptor Notes
John Adams politicians and statesmen 1735–1826 1900 John Francis Paramino
John Quincy Adams politicians and statesmen 1767–1848 1905 Edmond Thomas Quinn
Jane Addams authors and editors 1860–1935 1965 Granville Carter
Louis Agassiz scientists 1807–1873 1915 Anna Hyatt Huntington
Susan B. Anthony BCC HallofFame SusanAnthony and BreuerBldg.JPG philanthropists and reformers 1820–1906 1950 Brenda Putnam
John James Audubon musicians, painters and sculptors 1785–1851 1900 A. Stirling Calder
George Bancroft authors and editors 1800–1891 1910 Rudulph Evans
Clara Barton nurse, founder of the
American Red Cross
1821–1912 1976 bust unexecuted
Henry Ward Beecher clergymen and theologians 1813–1887 1900 J. Massey Rhind
Alexander Graham Bell inventors 1847–1922 1950 Stanley Martineau
Daniel Boone missionaries and explorers 1734–1820 1915 Albin Polasek
Edwin Booth Edwin Booth HoF jeh.jpg actor 1833–1893 1925 Edmond Thomas Quinn
Louis Brandeis lawyers and judges 1856–1941 1973 bust unexecuted
Phillips Brooks clergymen and theologians 1835–1893 1910 Daniel Chester French
William Cullen Bryant authors and editors 1794–1878 1910 Herbert Adams
Luther Burbank scientists 1849–1926 1976 bust unexecuted
Andrew Carnegie philanthropists and reformers 1835–1919 1976 bust unexecuted
George Washington Carver inventors 1860s–1943 1973 Richmond Barthé
William Ellery Channing clergymen and theologians 1780–1842 1900 Herbert Adams
Rufus Choate teachers 1799–1859 1915 Hermon MacNeil
Henry Clay politicians and statesmen 1777–1852 1900 Robert Ingersoll Aitken
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) authors and editors 1835–1910 1920 Albert Humphreys
Grover Cleveland politicians and statesmen 1837–1908 1935 Rudulph Evans
James Fenimore Cooper authors and editors 1789–1851 1910 Victor Salvatore
Peter Cooper Peter Cooper HoF jeh.jpg inventors 1791–1883 1900 Chester Beach
Charlotte Cushman Charlotte Cushman in the Hall of Fame.jpg actress 1816–1876 1915 Frances Grimes
James Buchanan Eads engineers and architects 1820–1887 1920 Charles Grafly
Thomas Edison inventors 1847–1931 1960 Bryant Baker
Jonathan Edwards clergymen and theologians 1703–1758 1900 Charles Grafly
Ralph Waldo Emerson RW Emerson HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1803–1882 1900 Daniel Chester French
David Farragut soldiers and sailors 1801–1870 1900 Charles Grafly
Stephen Foster musicians, painters and sculptors 1826–1864 1940 Walker Hancock
Benjamin Franklin politicians and statesmen 1706–1790 1900 Robert Ingersoll Aitken
Robert Fulton inventors 1765–1815 1900 Jean-Antoine Houdon
Josiah Willard Gibbs scientists 1839–1903 1950 Stanley Martineau
William C. Gorgas physicians and surgeons 1854–1920 1950 Bryant Baker
Ulysses S. Grant BCC HallOfFame Grant.JPG soldiers and sailors
rulers and statesmen
1822–1885 1900 James Earle Fraser &
Thomas Hudson Jones
Asa Gray scientists 1810–1888 1900 Chester Beach
Alexander Hamilton politicians and statesmen 1755 or 1757–1804 1915 Giuseppe Ceracchi
Nathaniel Hawthorne N Hawthorne Hof jeh.jpg authors and editors 1804–1864 1900 Daniel Chester French
Joseph Henry scientists 1797–1878 1915 John Flanagan
Patrick Henry politicians and statesmen 1736–1799 1920 Charles Keck
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. lawyers and judges 1809–1894 1910 Edmond Thomas Quinn
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. lawyers and judges 1841–1935 1965 Joseph Kiselewski
Mark Hopkins Mark Hopkins HoF jeh.jpg teachers 1802–1887 1915 Hans Hoerbst
Elias Howe inventors 1819–1867 1915 Charles Keck
Washington Irving Washington Irving HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1783–1859 1900 Edward McCartan
Andrew Jackson politicians and statesmen 1767–1845 1910 Belle Kinney
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson soldiers and sailors 1824–1863 1955 Bryant Baker ordered removed 2017[16]
Thomas Jefferson politicians and statesmen 1743–1826 1900 Robert Ingersoll Aitken
John Paul Jones soldiers and sailors 1747–1792 1925 Charles Grafly
James Kent lawyers and judges 1763–1847 1900 Edmond Thomas Quinn
Sidney Lanier authors and editors 1842–1881 1945 Hans Schuler
Robert E. Lee soldiers and sailors 1807–1870 1900 George T. Brewster ordered removed 2017[16]
Abraham Lincoln politicians and statesmen 1809–1865 1900 Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Longfellow HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1807–1882 1900 Rudulph Evans
James Russell Lowell James R Lowell HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1819–1891 1905 Allan Clark
Mary Lyon Bronx Community College - Hall of Great Americans - Mary Lyon.jpg teachers 1797–1849 1905 Laura Gardin Fraser first female inductees
Edward A. Macdowell musicians, painters and sculptors 1860–1908 1960 C. Paul Jennewein
James Madison politicians and statesmen 1751–1836 1905 Charles Keck
Horace Mann Horace Mann HoF jeh.jpg teachers 1796–1859 1900 Adolph Alexander Weinman
John Marshall lawyers and judges 1755–1835 1900 Herbert Adams
Matthew Fontaine Maury Mfmauryhofjeh.JPG scientists 1806–1873 1930 Frederick William Sievers
Albert A. Michelson scientists 1852–1931 1970 Elisabeth Gordon Chandler
Maria Mitchell scientists 1818–1889 1905 Emma F. Brigham first female inductees
James Monroe politicians and statesmen 1758–1831 1930 Hermon MacNeil
Samuel Morse inventors 1791–1872 1900 Chester Beach
William Thomas Morton physicians and surgeons 1819–1868 1920 Helen Farnsworth Mears
John Lothrop Motley authors and editors 1814–1877 1910 Frederick MacMonnies
Simon Newcomb scientists 1835–1909 1935 Frederick MacMonnies
Thomas Paine authors and editors 1737–1809 1945 Malvina Hoffman
Alice Freeman Palmer Alice Freeman Palmer in the Hall of Fame.jpg teachers 1855–1902 1920 Evelyn Beatrice Longman
Francis Parkman authors and editors 1823–1893 1915 Hermon MacNeil
George Peabody George Peabody HoF jeh.jpg philanthropists and reformers 1795–1869 1900 Hans Schuler
William Penn Wmpennhofjeh.JPG politicians and statesmen 1644–1718 1935 A. Stirling Calder
Edgar Allan Poe authors and editors 1809–1849 1910 Daniel Chester French
Walter Reed physicians and surgeons 1851–1902 1945 Cecil Howard
Franklin D. Roosevelt FDR at the Hall of Fame.jpg politicians and statesmen 1882–1945 1973 Jo Davidson
Theodore Roosevelt politicians and statesmen 1858–1919 1950 Georg J. Lober
Augustus Saint-Gaudens musicians, painters and sculptors 1848–1907 1920 James Earle Fraser
William Tecumseh Sherman Bronx Community College (Library)- William Tecumseh Sherman.jpg soldiers and sailors 1820–1891 1905 Augustus Saint-Gaudens
John Philip Sousa musicians, painters and sculptors 1854–1932 1973 Karl H. Gruppe
Joseph Story Joseph Story HoF jeh.jpg lawyers and judges 1779–1845 1900 Herbert Adams
Harriet Beecher Stowe HarrietBeecherStoweHoF.jpg authors and editors 1811–1896 1910 Brenda Putnam
Gilbert Stuart musicians, painters and sculptors 1755–1828 1900 Laura Gardin Fraser
Sylvanus Thayer soldiers and sailors 1785–1872 1965 Joseph Kiselewski
Henry David Thoreau ThoreauBust.jpg authors and editors 1817–1862 1960 Malvina Hoffman
Lillian Wald Lillian Wald HoF jeh.jpg nurse and author 1867–1940 1970 Eleanor Platt
Booker T. Washington teachers 1856–1915 1945 Richmond Barthé
George Washington politicians and statesmen 1732–1799 1900 Jean-Antoine Houdon only unanimous inductee
Daniel Webster politicians and statesmen 1782–1852 1900 Robert Ingersoll Aitken
George Westinghouse inventors 1846–1914 1955 Edmondo Quattrocchio
James Abbott McNeill Whistler musicians, painters and sculptors 1834–1903 1930 Frederick MacMonnies
Walt Whitman authors and editors 1819–1892 1930 Chester Beach
Eli Whitney inventors 1765–1825 1900 Chester Beach
John Greenleaf Whittier authors and editors 1807–1892 1905 Rudulph Evans
Roger Williams clergymen and theologians 1603–1683 1920 Hermon MacNeil
Emma Willard teachers 1787–1870 1905 Frances Grimes first female inductees
Frances Willard teachers 1839–1898 1910 Lorado Taft
Woodrow Wilson politicians and statesmen 1856–1924 1950 Walker Kirtland Hancock
Orville Wright Orville Wright at the Hall of Fame.jpg inventors 1871–1948 1965 Paul Fjelde
Wilbur Wright Bust of Wilbur Wright at the Hall of Fame.jpg inventors 1867–1912 1955 Vincent Glinsky
South entrance

Nominees not elected[edit]

In addition to Constance Woolson and Jefferson Davis the following people were among those nominated at least once but not elected:

Samuel Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Johnny Appleseed, Chester A. Arthur, Sarah Franklin Bache, Henry Barnard, William Beaumont, John Shaw Billings, George Caleb Bingham, Elizabeth Blackwell, Elena Petrovna Blavatsky, Borden Parker Bowne, William Brewster, William Austin Burt, Horace Bushnell, John C. Calhoun, Alice Cary, Frederick Edwin Church, George Rogers Clark, George M. Cohan, Calvin Coolidge, John Singleton Copley, Dorothea Dix, Paul Dunbar, Amelia Earhart, Wyatt Earp, John Eliot, Henry Ford, James A. Garfield, William Lloyd Garrison, Lou Gehrig, Henry George, Horace Greeley, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Warren G. Harding, Benjamin Harrison, William Henry Harrison, Charles Evans Hughes, Richard M. Hoe, John Ireland, Helen Hunt Jackson, William James, John Jay, Andrew Johnson, Al Jolson, Chief Joseph, Adoniram Judson, Francis Scott Key, Joyce Kilmer, Fiorello La Guardia, Karl Landsteiner, Gilbert N. Lewis, Crawford Long, Huey Long, Cyrus McCormick, Robert McCormick, Ephraim McDowell, Charles Follen McKim, William McKinley, Ottmar Mergenthaler, S. Weir Mitchell, Lucretia Mott, Benjamin Peirce, Wendell Phillips, Hiram Powers, Will Rogers, Babe Ruth, Sacagawea, Jacob Schiff, Elizabeth Seton, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Matthew Simpson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Stevens, Robert L. Stevens, Nikola Tesla, Roger B. Taney, Benjamin Thompson, Judah Touro, Paul M. Warburg, Martha Washington, Mary Ball Washington, Francis Wayland, Noah Webster, William Henry Welch, Henry Wheaton, and Theodore Dwight Woolsey.[17]


Busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were ordered removed from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in August 2017 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ University Heights was New York University's main campus from 1894 to 1973.
  3. ^ "Bronx Community College". Archived from the original on June 7, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  4. ^ According to Rubin (1997, p.14), her gift was $US2,000.000
  5. ^ Cricco, Nancy; Bunde, Janet. "Closing a Campus | The College on a Hill". A history of New York University's Bronx Campus through its architecture. New York University Archives. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Ackman, Dan (October 12, 2007). "Fames's Fortune". The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ Dolnickdec, Sam (December 5, 2009). "A Hall of Fame, Forgotten and Forlorn". The New York Times. p. A17. Retrieved August 5, 2019. Welcome to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, a lonely outpost in the University Heights section of the Bronx. When it was founded in 1900, it was the first Hall of Fame in the nation, local historians say, and the elections to induct members were covered by the national press.
  8. ^ Rubin (1997), p.14.
  9. ^ a b MacCracken, Henry Mitchell (1900), "The Hall of Fame," The American Monthly Review of Reviews, vol XXII (July–December 1900), p. 563
  10. ^ "Hall of Fame and Statue of Bavaria". Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung. 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2008.
  11. ^ de:Ruhmeshalle (München)
  12. ^ "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on July 1, 2015. Retrieved March 1, 2016. Note: This includes Joan R. Olshansky and Elizabeth Spencer-Ralph (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Hall of Fame Complex" (PDF). Retrieved March 1, 2016. and Accompanying nine photographs
  13. ^ Matt Sedensky, "The Original Hall of Fame Tries to Get Back on Its Feet", New York Times, November 25, 2001.
  14. ^ Rubin (1997), pp.14–15.
  15. ^ Rubin (1997), p.15.
  16. ^ a b c Jaeger, Max. "Cuomo orders Confederate busts removed from CUNY Hall of Fame". NY Post. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  17. ^ See excerpts from The People's Almanac series by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace found at pages linked from http://www.trivia-library.com/hall-of-fame-for-great-americans/index.htm .

Works cited

Other sources

External links[edit]