Father Duffy Square
At the apex of the triangle defining the north end of Times Square, the massive statue of Father Francis Patrick Duffy (1871-1932) by Charles Keck (1875-1951) has stood sentinel since it was unveiled May 2, 1937.
Duffy was a military chaplain and priest in the Times Square area. Born in Cobourg, Canada, Father Duffy moved to New York in 1893 to teach French at the College of St. Francis Xavier (now Xavier High School). He was later ordained as a priest, and in 1898, he accepted a teaching position at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, where he remained for the next 14 years.
Father Duffy’s military service began in the Spanish-American War of 1898, serving as First Lieutenant and chaplain of the legendary Fighting 69th Infantry, serving in Europe during World War I as part of the famed Rainbow Division, and earning a number of medals. After the war ended Father Duffy returned to New York, and in 1920, he was appointed pastor of the Holy Cross Church, located at 237 West 42nd Street. Father Duffy died on June 26, 1932 after serving the theater district community for over a decade. In 1940, veteran character actor Pat O’Brien portrayed Duffy in the Hollywood film based on his life, The Fighting 69th, which also starred James Cagney.
In Charles Keck’s bronze effigy of the soldier-priest, he depicts a stoic Duffy, nearly eight feet tall, in military garb, helmet at his feet and bible in hand. The statue is set on a pedestal backed by a green granite Celtic cross, which is more than 17 feet tall. Keck’s sculptural maquette for the head of Duffy is in the collection of the New York City Art Commission, and is on display in City Hall. In 1997 the statue was conserved and repatined through a project funded by the Times Square Business Improvement District.
A sculptor who received numerous public monument commissions, Keck also created the Alfred E. Smith Memorial (1950) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and the monumental stone figures on the Brooklyn War Memorial (1951) in Cadman Plaza. For decades, his portrait of Father Duffy has enthralled millions of visitors to this hub of Manhattan, and is a permanent reminder of the local hero who ministered in the decidedly secular world of Times Square.
Father Francis P. Duffy Details
- Sculptor: Charles Keck
- Description: Standing figure (over life size) before a Celtic cross, on a pedestal, on a base, on a platform with seat at rear, approached by three steps
- Materials: Figure--bronze; Cross, pedestal, base, platform, and steps--Archean green granite (source, Angora, Minnesota)
- Dimensions: Figure H: 7'6"; Pedestal H: 3'7" W: 4'10 1/4" D: 4'10 1/4"; Base H: 2'1" W: 5'3 3/8" D: 5'3 3/8"
- Cast: 1937
- Dedicated: May 7, 1937
- Donor: Father Duffy Memorial Committee (figure); Works Progress Administration
- Inscription: Front:
FATHER DUFFY /
LIEUTENANT COLONEL / FRANCES P. DUFFY / MAY 2, 1871 - JUNE 26, 1932 / CATHOLIC PRIEST / CHAPLIN / 165TH U.S. INFANTRY / OLD 69TH N.Y. / A LIFE OF SERVICE / FOR GOD AND COUNTRY / SPANISH AMERICAN WAR / NEW YORK NATIONAL GUARD / MEXICAN BORDER / WORLD WAR / DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS / DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL / CONSPICUOUS SERVICE CROSS / LEGION D'HONNEUR / CROIX DE GUERRE /