Grand Army Plaza
Redesigned sculpture in process. Original bust in storage.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963) was the 35th President of the United States. After serving as a naval officer during World War II, Kennedy was a United States Congressman from Massachusetts from 1947 to 1953, and a United States Senator from 1953 to 1960. Narrowly defeating Richard Milhous Nixon in the tightly contested election of 1960, he was elected the nation’s first Catholic president. As President, he launched initiatives such as the Peace Corps (1961), and with Great Britain and the Soviet Union signed the nuclear test-ban treaty of 1963. He also weathered the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba (1961) and Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Shortly after the assassination, Brooklyn Borough President Abe Stark proposed to Mayor Robert F. Wagner and Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris that a monument be erected in Kennedy’s honor. The American Institute of Architects sponsored the monument competition, and Morris Ketchum, Jr. and Associates were selected to design the monument.
The promontory where the monument is situated in Grand Army Plaza was selected for its physical prominence, historic significance, and scenic beauty. The monument’s design went through an evolution, which at one time included an eternal flame. Eventually, the design was reduced to a more modest oblong pedestal sheathed in Vermont marble, from which projects a bronze portrait bust of Kennedy, crafted by noted Brooklyn-based sculptor Neil Estern (b. 1926). Estern, who has served as president of the National Sculpture Society, also created the statue of Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in Manhattan and a sculpture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and their dog Fala, at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D. C.
The approach to the Kennedy monument consists of a stairway leading to a circular plaza, 41 feet in diameter. At the center of this plaza around the sculpture is a circle paved with Amazon River ebonite pebbles. Inscribed into the front of the pedestal is the call to action expressed by Kennedy in his presidential inaugural address delivered on January 20, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask rather, what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy Memorial Details
- Sculptor: Neil Estern
- Description: Bust on pedestal
- Materials: Bronze, Vermont marble
- Dimensions: H: 7'4 ½"
- Cast: 2010
- Dedicated: May 31, 1965
- Foundry: Beacon Fine Art Foundry
- Inscription: Front: / JOHN / FITZGERALD / KENNEDY/ MAY 29, 1917 / NOVEMBER 22, 1963 / 35TH PRESIDENT / OF THE / UNITED STATES / 1961-1963 /
Below: / ASK NOT WHAT YOUR / COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU; / ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR / YOUR COUNTRY/
Directions to Grand Army Plaza
- Celebrate Presidents’ Day In New York City Parks
- MEMORIALS, TREES, AND PROSPECT PARK
- RESTORING SHEEN TO A PHYSICIAN NAMED SKENE