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Hall of Fame for Great Americans facts for kids

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Hall of Fame Complex
HallofFameColumns.jpg
View of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Location Bronx Community College campus, Bronx, New York
Area 2 acres (0.81 ha)
Built 1894
Architect White, Stanford; Multiple
Architectural style Classical Revival, Beaux Arts
NRHP reference No. 79001567
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 7, 1979

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, the 630-foot (192 m) stone colonnade half-encircles the university library and houses 98 bronze portrait busts of a number of prominent Americans. 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. 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. 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.

History

Origin and inspiration

NYU library2 crop
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. "Fame" here means "renown" (rather than today's more common meaning of "celebrity"). Chancellor MacCracken acknowledged inspiration from the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) in Munich, Germany.

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. Chancellor McCracken described the evolution of the idea for the Hall of Fame:

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.

Design

Hall of Fame for Great Americans shiny north jeh
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. The colonnade also runs behind (west of) the Hall of Languages to the south, and the Hall of Philosophy to the north.

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

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.

Nominations

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'.

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.

Classification of honorees

Hall of Fame Teachers Tile
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

Honorees of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Honoree Image Classification Lifetime Year inducted Sculptor Notes
Adams, JohnJohn Adams politicians and statesmen 1735–1826 1900 Paramino, John FrancisJohn Francis Paramino
Adams, John QuincyJohn Quincy Adams politicians and statesmen 1767–1848 1905 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Addams, JaneJane Addams authors and editors 1860–1935 1965 Carter, GranvilleGranville Carter
Agassiz, LouisLouis Agassiz scientists 1807–1873 1915 Huntington, Anna HyattAnna Hyatt Huntington
Anthony, Susan B.Susan B. Anthony BCC HallofFame SusanAnthony and BreuerBldg.JPG philanthropists and reformers 1820–1906 1950 Putnam, BrendaBrenda Putnam
Audubon, John JamesJohn James Audubon musicians, painters and sculptors 1785–1851 1900 Calder, A. StirlingA. Stirling Calder
Bancroft, GeorgeGeorge Bancroft authors and editors 1800–1891 1910 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Barton, ClaraClara Barton nurse, founder of the
American Red Cross
1821–1912 1976 bust unexecuted
Beecher, Henry WardHenry Ward Beecher clergymen and theologians 1813–1887 1900 Rhind, J. MasseyJ. Massey Rhind
Bell, Alexander GrahamAlexander Graham Bell inventors 1847–1922 1950 Martineau, StanleyStanley Martineau
Boone, DanielDaniel Boone missionaries and explorers 1734–1820 1915 Polasek, AlbinAlbin Polasek
Booth, EdwinEdwin Booth Edwin Booth HoF jeh.jpg actor 1833–1893 1925 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Brandeis, LouisLouis Brandeis lawyers and judges 1856–1941 1973 bust unexecuted
Brooks, PhillipsPhillips Brooks clergymen and theologians 1835–1893 1910 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Bryant, William CullenWilliam Cullen Bryant authors and editors 1794–1878 1910 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Burbank, LutherLuther Burbank scientists 1849–1926 1976 bust unexecuted
Carnegie, AndrewAndrew Carnegie philanthropists and reformers 1835–1919 1976 bust unexecuted
Carver, George WashingtonGeorge Washington Carver inventors 1860s–1943 1973 Barthé, RichmondRichmond Barthé
Channing, William ElleryWilliam Ellery Channing clergymen and theologians 1780–1842 1900 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Choate, RufusRufus Choate teachers 1799–1859 1915 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Clay, HenryHenry Clay politicians and statesmen 1777–1852 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Clemens, Samuel LanghorneSamuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) authors and editors 1835–1910 1920 Humphreys, AlbertAlbert Humphreys
Cleveland, GroverGrover Cleveland politicians and statesmen 1837–1908 1935 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Cooper, James FenimoreJames Fenimore Cooper authors and editors 1789–1851 1910 Salvatore, VictorVictor Salvatore
Cooper, PeterPeter Cooper Peter Cooper HoF jeh.jpg inventors 1791–1883 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Cushman, CharlotteCharlotte Cushman Charlotte Cushman in the Hall of Fame.jpg actress 1816–1876 1915 Grimes, FrancesFrances Grimes
Eads, James BuchananJames Buchanan Eads engineers and architects 1820–1887 1920 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Edison, ThomasThomas Edison inventors 1847–1931 1960 Baker, BryantBryant Baker
Edwards, JonathanJonathan Edwards clergymen and theologians 1703–1758 1900 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Emerson, Ralph WaldoRalph Waldo Emerson RW Emerson HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1803–1882 1900 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Farragut, DavidDavid Farragut soldiers and sailors 1801–1870 1900 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Foster, StephenStephen Foster musicians, painters and sculptors 1826–1864 1940 Hancock, WalkerWalker Hancock
Franklin, BenjaminBenjamin Franklin politicians and statesmen 1706–1790 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Fulton, RobertRobert Fulton inventors 1765–1815 1900 Houdon, Jean-AntoineJean-Antoine Houdon
Gibbs, Josiah WillardJosiah Willard Gibbs scientists 1839–1903 1950 Martineau, StanleyStanley Martineau
Gorgas, William C.William C. Gorgas physicians and surgeons 1854–1920 1950 Baker, BryantBryant Baker
Grant, Ulysses S.Ulysses S. Grant BCC HallOfFame Grant.JPG soldiers and sailors
rulers and statesmen
1822–1885 1900 Fraser, James EarleJames Earle Fraser &
Thomas Hudson Jones
Gray, AsaAsa Gray scientists 1810–1888 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Hamilton, AlexanderAlexander Hamilton politicians and statesmen 1755 or 1757–1804 1915 Ceracchi, GiuseppeGiuseppe Ceracchi
Hawthorne, NathanielNathaniel Hawthorne N Hawthorne Hof jeh.jpg authors and editors 1804–1864 1900 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Henry, JosephJoseph Henry scientists 1797–1878 1915 Flanagan, JohnJohn Flanagan
Henry, PatrickPatrick Henry politicians and statesmen 1736–1799 1920 Keck, CharlesCharles Keck
Holmes Sr., Oliver WendellOliver Wendell Holmes Sr. lawyers and judges 1809–1894 1910 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Holmes Jr., Oliver WendellOliver Wendell Holmes Jr. lawyers and judges 1841–1935 1965 Kiselewski, JosephJoseph Kiselewski
Hopkins, MarkMark Hopkins Mark Hopkins HoF jeh.jpg teachers 1802–1887 1915 Hoerbst, HansHans Hoerbst
Howe, EliasElias Howe inventors 1819–1867 1915 Keck, CharlesCharles Keck
Irving, WashingtonWashington Irving Washington Irving HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1783–1859 1900 McCartan, EdwardEdward McCartan
Jackson, AndrewAndrew Jackson politicians and statesmen 1767–1845 1910 Kinney, BelleBelle Kinney
Jackson, Thomas J. "Stonewall"Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson soldiers and sailors 1824–1863 1955 Baker, BryantBryant Baker ordered removed 2017
Jefferson, ThomasThomas Jefferson politicians and statesmen 1743–1826 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Jones, John PaulJohn Paul Jones soldiers and sailors 1747–1792 1925 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Kent, JamesJames Kent lawyers and judges 1763–1847 1900 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Lanier, SidneySidney Lanier authors and editors 1842–1881 1945 Schuler, HansHans Schuler
Lee, Robert E.Robert E. Lee soldiers and sailors 1807–1870 1900 Brewster, George T.George T. Brewster ordered removed 2017
Lincoln, AbrahamAbraham Lincoln politicians and statesmen 1809–1865 1900 Saint-Gaudens, AugustusAugustus Saint-Gaudens
Longfellow, Henry WadsworthHenry Wadsworth Longfellow Longfellow HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1807–1882 1900 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Lowell, James RussellJames Russell Lowell James R Lowell HoF jeh.jpg authors and editors 1819–1891 1905 Clark, AllanAllan Clark
Lyon, MaryMary Lyon Bronx Community College - Hall of Great Americans - Mary Lyon.jpg teachers 1797–1849 1905 Fraser, Laura GardinLaura Gardin Fraser first female inductees
Macdowell, Edward A.Edward A. Macdowell musicians, painters and sculptors 1860–1908 1960 Jennewein, C. PaulC. Paul Jennewein
Madison, JamesJames Madison politicians and statesmen 1751–1836 1905 Keck, CharlesCharles Keck
Mann, HoraceHorace Mann Horace Mann HoF jeh.jpg teachers 1796–1859 1900 Weinman, Adolph AlexanderAdolph Alexander Weinman
Marshall, JohnJohn Marshall lawyers and judges 1755–1835 1900 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Maury, Matthew FontaineMatthew Fontaine Maury Mfmauryhofjeh.JPG scientists 1806–1873 1930 Sievers, Frederick WilliamFrederick William Sievers
Michelson, Albert A.Albert A. Michelson scientists 1852–1931 1970 Chandler, Elisabeth GordonElisabeth Gordon Chandler
Mitchell, MariaMaria Mitchell scientists 1818–1889 1905 Brigham, Emma F.Emma F. Brigham first female inductees
Monroe, JamesJames Monroe politicians and statesmen 1758–1831 1930 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Morse, SamuelSamuel Morse inventors 1791–1872 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Morton, William ThomasWilliam Thomas Morton physicians and surgeons 1819–1868 1920 Mears, Helen FarnsworthHelen Farnsworth Mears
Motley, John LothropJohn Lothrop Motley authors and editors 1814–1877 1910 MacMonnies, FrederickFrederick MacMonnies
Newcomb, SimonSimon Newcomb scientists 1835–1909 1935 MacMonnies, FrederickFrederick MacMonnies
Paine, ThomasThomas Paine authors and editors 1737–1809 1945 Hoffman, MalvinaMalvina Hoffman
Palmer, Alice FreemanAlice Freeman Palmer Alice Freeman Palmer in the Hall of Fame.jpg teachers 1855–1902 1920 Longman, Evelyn BeatriceEvelyn Beatrice Longman
Parkman, FrancisFrancis Parkman authors and editors 1823–1893 1915 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Peabody, GeorgeGeorge Peabody George Peabody HoF jeh.jpg philanthropists and reformers 1795–1869 1900 Schuler, HansHans Schuler
Penn, WilliamWilliam Penn Wmpennhofjeh.JPG politicians and statesmen 1644–1718 1935 Calder, A. StirlingA. Stirling Calder
Poe, Edgar AllanEdgar Allan Poe authors and editors 1809–1849 1910 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Reed, WalterWalter Reed physicians and surgeons 1851–1902 1945 Howard, CecilCecil Howard
Roosevelt, Franklin D.Franklin D. Roosevelt FDR at the Hall of Fame.jpg politicians and statesmen 1882–1945 1973 Davidson, JoJo Davidson
Roosevelt, TheodoreTheodore Roosevelt politicians and statesmen 1858–1919 1950 Lober, Georg J.Georg J. Lober
Saint-Gaudens, AugustusAugustus Saint-Gaudens musicians, painters and sculptors 1848–1907 1920 Fraser, James EarleJames Earle Fraser
Sherman, William TecumsehWilliam Tecumseh Sherman Bronx Community College (Library)- William Tecumseh Sherman.jpg soldiers and sailors 1820–1891 1905 Saint-Gaudens, AugustusAugustus Saint-Gaudens
Sousa, John PhilipJohn Philip Sousa musicians, painters and sculptors 1854–1932 1973 Gruppe, Karl H.Karl H. Gruppe
Story, JosephJoseph Story Joseph Story HoF jeh.jpg lawyers and judges 1779–1845 1900 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Stowe, Harriet BeecherHarriet Beecher Stowe HarrietBeecherStoweHoF.jpg authors and editors 1811–1896 1910 Putnam, BrendaBrenda Putnam
Stuart, GilbertGilbert Stuart musicians, painters and sculptors 1755–1828 1900 Fraser, Laura GardinLaura Gardin Fraser
Thayer, SylvanusSylvanus Thayer soldiers and sailors 1785–1872 1965 Kiselewski, JosephJoseph Kiselewski
Thoreau, Henry DavidHenry David Thoreau ThoreauBust.jpg authors and editors 1817–1862 1960 Hoffman, MalvinaMalvina Hoffman
Wald, LillianLillian Wald Lillian Wald HoF jeh.jpg nurse and author 1867–1940 1970 Platt, EleanorEleanor Platt
Washington, Booker T.Booker T. Washington teachers 1856–1915 1945 Barthé, RichmondRichmond Barthé
Washington, GeorgeGeorge Washington politicians and statesmen 1732–1799 1900 Houdon, Jean-AntoineJean-Antoine Houdon only unanimous inductee
Webster, DanielDaniel Webster politicians and statesmen 1782–1852 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Westinghouse, GeorgeGeorge Westinghouse inventors 1846–1914 1955 Quattrocchio, EdmondoEdmondo Quattrocchio
Whistler, James Abbott McNeillJames Abbott McNeill Whistler musicians, painters and sculptors 1834–1903 1930 MacMonnies, FrederickFrederick MacMonnies
Whitman, WaltWalt Whitman authors and editors 1819–1892 1930 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Whitney, EliEli Whitney inventors 1765–1825 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Whittier, John GreenleafJohn Greenleaf Whittier authors and editors 1807–1892 1905 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Williams, RogerRoger Williams clergymen and theologians 1603–1683 1920 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Willard, EmmaEmma Willard teachers 1787–1870 1905 Grimes, FrancesFrances Grimes first female inductees
Willard, FrancesFrances Willard teachers 1839–1898 1910 Taft, LoradoLorado Taft
Wilson, WoodrowWoodrow Wilson politicians and statesmen 1856–1924 1950 Hancock, Walker KirtlandWalker Kirtland Hancock
Wright, OrvilleOrville Wright Orville Wright at the Hall of Fame.jpg inventors 1871–1948 1965 Fjelde, PaulPaul Fjelde
Wright, WilburWilbur Wright Bust of Wilbur Wright at the Hall of Fame.jpg inventors 1867–1912 1955 Glinsky, VincentVincent Glinsky
Hofsouthjeh
South entrance

Nominees not elected

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, 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.

Removals

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.

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