Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Hall of Fame Complex

View of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Location Bronx Community College campus, Bronx, New York
Coordinates 40°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
Area 2 acres (0.81 ha)
Built 1894
Architect White, Stanford; Multiple
Architectural style Classical Revival, Beaux Arts
NRHP Reference #


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. 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.[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 women, but to Roman ideals of fame favored at the beginning of the 20th century.[6]


Origin and inspiration

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 and originator of The Hall of Fame, once said:

"Lost to the invaders of 1776, this summit is now retaken by the goodly troop of 'Great Americans', General Washington their leader. They enter into possession of these Heights and are destined to hold them, we trust, forever."

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

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] Along with the library dome at the Bronx Community College, the Hall of Fame was featured in the 2006 film The Good Shepherd as a backdrop for scenes taking place at Yale University. The dome of the Gould Memorial Library at the Hall of Fame served as a stand-in for MIT's Great Dome in the movie A Beautiful Mind.[14]


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'."[15]

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."[16]

Classification of honorees

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:


Honoree Image Classification Year inducted Sculptor Notes
Adams, JohnJohn Adams politicians and statesmen 1900 Paramino, John FrancisJohn Francis Paramino
Adams, John QuincyJohn Quincy Adams politicians and statesmen 1905 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Addams, JaneJane Addams authors and editors 1965 Carter, GranvilleGranville Carter
Agassiz, LouisLouis Agassiz scientists 1915 Huntington, Anna HyattAnna Hyatt Huntington
Anthony, Susan B.Susan B. Anthony philanthropists and reformers 1950 Putnam, BrendaBrenda Putnam
Audubon, John JamesJohn James Audubon musicians, painters and sculptors 1900 Calder, A. StirlingA. Stirling Calder
Bancroft, GeorgeGeorge Bancroft authors and editors 1910 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Barton, ClaraClara Barton nurse, founder of the
American Red Cross
1976 bust unexecuted
Beecher, Henry WardHenry Ward Beecher clergymen and theologians 1900 Rhind, J. MasseyJ. Massey Rhind
Bell, Alexander GrahamAlexander Graham Bell inventors 1950 Martineau, StanleyStanley Martineau
Boone, DanielDaniel Boone missionaries and explorers 1915 Polasek, AlbinAlbin Polasek
Booth, EdwinEdwin Booth actor 1925 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Brandeis, Louis D.Louis D. Brandeis lawyers and judges 1973 bust unexecuted
Brooks, PhillipsPhillips Brooks clergymen and theologians 1910 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Bryant, William CullenWilliam Cullen Bryant authors and editors 1910 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Burbank, LutherLuther Burbank scientists 1976 bust unexecuted
Carnegie, AndrewAndrew Carnegie philanthropists and reformers 1976 bust unexecuted
Carver, George WashingtonGeorge Washington Carver inventor 1973 Barthe, RichmondRichmond Barthe
Channing, William ElleryWilliam Ellery Channing clergymen and theologians 1900 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Choate, RufusRufus Choate teachers 1915 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Clay, HenryHenry Clay politicians and statesmen 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Clemens, Samuel LanghorneSamuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) authors and editors 1920 Humphreys, AlbertAlbert Humphreys
Cleveland, GroverGrover Cleveland politicians and statesmen 1935 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Cooper, James FenimoreJames Fenimore Cooper authors and editors 1910 Salvatore, VictorVictor Salvatore
Cooper, PeterPeter Cooper inventors 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Cushman, CharlotteCharlotte Cushman actress 1915 Grimes, FrancesFrances Grimes
Eads, James BuchananJames Buchanan Eads engineers and architects 1920 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Edison, Thomas AlvaThomas Alva Edison inventors 1960 Baker, BryantBryant Baker
Edwards, JonathanJonathan Edwards clergymen and theologians 1900 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Emerson, Ralph WaldoRalph Waldo Emerson authors and editors 1900 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Farragut, David G.David G. Farragut soldiers and sailors 1900 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Foster, StephenStephen Foster musicians, painters and sculptors 1940 Hancock, WalkerWalker Hancock
Franklin, BenjaminBenjamin Franklin politicians and statesmen 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Fulton, RobertRobert Fulton inventors 1900 Houdon, Jean-AntoineJean-Antoine Houdon
Gibbs, Josiah WillardJosiah Willard Gibbs scientists 1950 Martineau, StanleyStanley Martineau
Gorgas, William C.William C. Gorgas physicians and surgeons 1950 Baker, BryantBryant Baker
Grant, Ulysses S.Ulysses S. Grant soldiers and sailors
rulers and statesmen
1900 Fraser, James EarleJames Earle Fraser &
Thomas Hudson Jones
Gray, AsaAsa Gray scientists 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Hamilton, AlexanderAlexander Hamilton politicians and statesmen 1915 Ceracchi, GiuseppeGiuseppe Ceracchi
Hawthorne, NathanielNathaniel Hawthorne authors and editors 1900 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Henry, JosephJoseph Henry scientists 1915 Flanagan, JohnJohn Flanagan
Henry, PatrickPatrick Henry politicians and statesmen 1920 Keck, CharlesCharles Keck
Holmes, Sr., Oliver WendellOliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. lawyers and judges 1910 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Holmes, Jr., Oliver WendellOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. lawyers and judges 1965 Kiselewski, JosephJoseph Kiselewski
Hopkins, MarkMark Hopkins teachers 1915 Hoerbst, HansHans Hoerbst
Howe, EliasElias Howe inventors 1915 Keck, CharlesCharles Keck
Irving, WashingtonWashington Irving authors and editors 1900 McCartan, EdwardEdward McCartan
Jackson, AndrewAndrew Jackson politicians and statesmen 1910 Kinney, BelleBelle Kinney
Jackson, Thomas J. "Stonewall"Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson soldiers and sailors 1955 Baker, BryantBryant Baker
Jefferson, ThomasThomas Jefferson politicians and statesmen 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Jones, John PaulJohn Paul Jones soldiers and sailors 1925 Grafly, CharlesCharles Grafly
Kent, JamesJames Kent lawyers and judges 1900 Quinn, Edmond ThomasEdmond Thomas Quinn
Lanier, SidneySidney Lanier authors and editors 1945 Schuler, HansHans Schuler
Lee, Robert E.Robert E. Lee soldiers and sailors 1900 Brewster, George T.George T. Brewster
Lincoln, AbrahamAbraham Lincoln politicians and statesmen 1900 Saint-Gaudens, AugustusAugustus Saint-Gaudens
Longfellow, Henry WadsworthHenry Wadsworth Longfellow authors and editors 1900 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Lowell, James RussellJames Russell Lowell authors and editors 1905 Clark, AllanAllan Clark
Lyon, MaryMary Lyon teachers 1905 Fraser, Laura GardinLaura Gardin Fraser
Macdowell, Edward A.Edward A. Macdowell musicians, painters and sculptors 1960 Jennewein, C. PaulC. Paul Jennewein
Madison, JamesJames Madison politicians and statesmen 1905 Keck, CharlesCharles Keck
Mann, HoraceHorace Mann teachers 1900 Weinman, Adolph AlexanderAdolph Alexander Weinman
Marshall, JohnJohn Marshall lawyers and judges 1900 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Maury, Matthew FontaineMatthew Fontaine Maury scientists 1930 Sievers, Frederick WilliamFrederick William Sievers
Michelson, Albert A.Albert A. Michelson scientists 1970 Chandler, Elisabeth GordonElisabeth Gordon Chandler
Mitchell, MariaMaria Mitchell scientists 1905 Brigham, Emma F.Emma F. Brigham
Monroe, JamesJames Monroe politicians and statesmen 1930 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Morse, Samuel F. B.Samuel F. B. Morse inventors 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Morton, William ThomasWilliam Thomas Morton physicians and surgeons 1920 Mears, Helen FarnsworthHelen Farnsworth Mears
Motley, John LothropJohn Lothrop Motley authors and editors 1910 MacMonnies, FrederickFrederick MacMonnies
Newcomb, SimonSimon Newcomb scientists 1935 MacMonnies, FrederickFrederick MacMonnies
Paine, ThomasThomas Paine authors and editors 1945 Hoffman, MalvinaMalvina Hoffman
Palmer, Alice FreemanAlice Freeman Palmer teachers 1920 Longman, Evelyn BeatriceEvelyn Beatrice Longman
Parkman, FrancisFrancis Parkman authors and editors 1915 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Peabody, GeorgeGeorge Peabody philanthropists and reformers 1900 Schuler, HansHans Schuler
Penn, WilliamWilliam Penn politicians and statesmen 1935 Calder, A. StirlingA. Stirling Calder
Poe, Edgar AllanEdgar Allan Poe authors and editors 1910 French, Daniel ChesterDaniel Chester French
Reed, WalterWalter Reed physicians and surgeons 1945 Howard, CecilCecil Howard
Robinson, JackieJackie Robinson athlete 1970 Coomer, ChaseChase Coomer
Roosevelt, Franklin D.Franklin D. Roosevelt politicians and statesmen 1973 Davidson, JoJo Davidson
Roosevelt, TheodoreTheodore Roosevelt politicians and statesmen 1950 Lober, Georg J.Georg J. Lober
Saint-Gaudens, AugustusAugustus Saint-Gaudens musicians, painters and sculptors 1920 Fraser, James EarleJames Earle Fraser
Sherman, William TecumsehWilliam Tecumseh Sherman soldiers and sailors 1905 Saint-Gaudens, AugustusAugustus Saint-Gaudens
Sousa, John PhilipJohn Philip Sousa musicians, painters and sculptors 1973 Gruppe, Karl H.Karl H. Gruppe
Story, JosephJoseph Story lawyers and judges 1900 Adams, HerbertHerbert Adams
Stowe, Harriet BeecherHarriet Beecher Stowe authors and editors 1910 Putnam, BrendaBrenda Putnam
Stuart, GilbertGilbert Stuart musicians, painters and sculptors 1900 Fraser, Laura GardinLaura Gardin Fraser
Thayer, SylvanusSylvanus Thayer soldiers and sailors 1965 Kiselewski, JosephJoseph Kiselewski
Thoreau, Henry DavidHenry David Thoreau authors and editors 1960 Hoffman, MalvinaMalvina Hoffman
Wald, LillianLillian Wald nurse and author 1970 Platt, EleanorEleanor Platt
Washington, Booker T.Booker T. Washington teachers 1945 Barthe, RichmondRichmond Barthe
Washington, GeorgeGeorge Washington politicians and statesmen 1900 Houdon, Jean-AntoineJean-Antoine Houdon only unanimous inductee
Webster, DanielDaniel Webster politicians and statesmen 1900 Aitken, Robert IngersollRobert Ingersoll Aitken
Westinghouse, GeorgeGeorge Westinghouse inventors 1955 Quattrocchio, EdmondoEdmondo Quattrocchio
Whistler, James McNeillJames McNeill Whistler musicians, painters and sculptors 1930 MacMonnies, FrederickFrederick MacMonnies
Whitman, WaltWalt Whitman authors and editors 1930 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Whitney, EliEli Whitney inventors 1900 Beach, ChesterChester Beach
Whittier, John GreenleafJohn Greenleaf Whittier authors and editors 1905 Evans, RudulphRudulph Evans
Williams, RogerRoger Williams clergymen and theologians 1920 MacNeil, HermonHermon MacNeil
Willard, EmmaEmma Willard teachers 1905 Grimes, FrancesFrances Grimes
Willard, Frances E.Frances E. Willard teachers 1910 Taft, LoradoLorado Taft
Wilson, WoodrowWoodrow Wilson politicians and statesmen 1950 Hancock, Walker KirtlandWalker Kirtland Hancock
Wright, OrvilleOrville Wright inventors 1965 Fjelde, PaulPaul Fjelde
Wilbur Wright inventors 1955 Glinsky, VincentVincent Glinsky

The busts for honorees inducted in 1976 (and Louis Brandeis) have not yet been executed.

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, 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, 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]



  1. National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. University Heights was New York University's main campus from 1894 to 1973.
  3. Bronx Community College
  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 6 April 2014.
  6. 1 2 "Dan Ackman, "Fames's Fortune"". The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12, 2007.
  7. Sam Dolnick (December 5, 2009). "A Hall of Fame, Forgotten and Forlorn". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 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. 1 2 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 2008-01-02.
  11. de:Ruhmeshalle (München)
  12. "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)" (Searchable database). New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 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 2016-03-01. 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. Deborah Halber (2002-12-23). "MIT facts meet fiction in 'A Beautiful Mind". Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Office. Retrieved 2008-02-10.: "In the movie, Bronx Community College's domed, columned Gould Memorial Library auditorium stands in for MIT's Great Dome, and this building also was used for hospital and treatment room scenes."
  15. Rubin (1997), pp.14–15.
  16. Rubin (1997), p.15.
  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

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