In 1869 the first statue dedicated to Abraham Lincoln was unveiled at the north end of the axis of Prospect Park Plaza. Facing north, he holds the Emancipation Proclamation, and points to the words “shall be forever free.”
In 1895, the statue was turned around, marched into the park and abandoned in the Concert Grove. After 115 years, the statue is to return to Grand Army Plaza.
The location most in conformance with the 1865 plans of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Omlsted is on the plaza’s axis between the Arch and Fountain, facing north overlooking Bailey Fountain. Viewed from the large public area surrounding the fountain basin, Lincoln will be silhouetted in front of Duncan’s Arch. Grand Army Plaza will become a well-known Civil War Memorial - the site of class trips, political speeches, after dinner strolls and a place to celebrate Decoration Day.
1867, two years after slavery was abolished and Lincoln’s assassination, Vaux, Olmsted and Stranahan opened the elliptical plaza whose axis extended north to the Manhattan mansion of William Astor. Vaux, Olmsted and Stranahan were dedicated Lincoln men, Astor’s circle was not. Two years later, the statue, stressing the words, confronted those in the mansion who had opposed the war and Lincoln. Political tides changed in 1877. In 1895, Olmsted retired, the Lincoln statue was removed and Vaux drowned in Gravesend. Six months later, the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation Constitutional.
Will the Lincoln statue end up in a remote corner, facing south, staring across traffic at “his” plaza. Or will his location command the respect and honor this President and his legacy is due?
The alignment of the plaza and mansion: