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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Firefighters' Memorial in Riverside Park

Today was the annual gathering of the Fire Department in Riverside Park to pay tribute to their fallen comrades at the Firefighters' Memorial at 100th Street. Thousands of fire personnel attend this ceremony each year, which shuts down Riverside Drive for a number of blocks on either side of the monument.

The memorial itself was installed in 1913 and unveiled by Mayor Gaynor--one of his last official acts before his own death. The idea behind honoring New York's firemen came from the city's Episcopal Bishop, Henry Potter, who was the chairman of the memorial committee. Potter lamented the fact that in a city that was quick to honor less deserving citizens, no one took the time to commemorate these "soldiers in a war that never ends."

Originally slated for Union Square, the memorial was ultimately landscaped by architect H.V.B. Magonigle specially for this spot at 100th Street. The carvings are by Attilio Piccirilli, who, along with his many brothers, was part of the greatest stone carving family in the city. (The Piccirilli brothers work can be seen at the USS Maine monument in Columbus Circle and the Museum of the American Indian on Bowling Green, among many other places.) On the front, a horse-drawn fire engine races to a blaze; on either side, allegories of Duty and Sacrifice flank the main fountain.

Few people who don't live in this neighborhood ever explore the statuary in Riverside Park, but this monument alone is worth a trip to the Upper West Side.


Read more about New York's famous (and not-so famous) statuary in
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York

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