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Riverside Park

Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This monument by sculptor Penelope Jencks honors humanitarian and First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962).  Dedicated under the oak trees at 72nd Street on October 5, 1996 in the presence of then First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton, this piece depicts Roosevelt in heroic scale half-seated against a boulder.  The bronze sculpture is set within a circular landscape that was designed by Bruce Kelly/David Varnell Landscape Architects.

A niece of President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born into a socially prominent New York family.  Orphaned by age eleven, she was educated in England before returning to New York where she was both a debutante and a settlement house volunteer.  She married her distant cousin, and future president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) in 1905. 

Eleanor Roosevelt maintained active involvement in social and political organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the American Red Cross, and the Women’s Trade Union League, even as she raised five children.  While Franklin Roosevelt suffered his debilitating bout of polio, his wife became his representative at many public functions.  She was the leader of the women’s platform committee for the 1924 Democratic National Convention.  Eleanor Roosevelt even served as the vice-principal and as a teacher in a New York City school for a short while. 

After aiding in her husband’s successful Presidential campaign in 1932, Eleanor Roosevelt embraced the role of First Lady.  Holding weekly press conferences and making many public appearances at home and abroad, she championed the cause of racial equality and supported innovative programs to fight poverty and unemployment.  During her service with the United Nations, she chaired the commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  A popular author, she published several books as well as a syndicated newspaper column.  She died at the age of 78 in New York City and was buried with her husband at Springwood, the family’s home at Hyde Park.

Installed on the former site of the West Side Highway southbound access ramp and the Henry Hudson Monument (which stood at 72nd Street until toppled by a truck in the 1950s), the Eleanor Roosevelt monument celebrates an individual of worldwide significance while providing a gracious ceremonial entranceway to Riverside Park. Quotations by Eleanor Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson inscribed in the pavement capture her intense commitment to human rights and social justice. Funding was provided by the City of New York, the State of New York, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund, which established an endowment for the ongoing maintenance of the sculpture.

This monument lies at the threshold of the park, and is one of a sequence of civic monuments along Riverside Drive, several which honor persons of historical significance, including French heroine Joan of Arc, Hungarian independence leader Lajos Kossuth, and most recently author Ralph Ellison.

Photo of Eleanor Roosevelt Statue in Riverside Park

Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Details

  • Location: 72nd Street and Riverside Drive (Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Plaza)
  • Sculptor: Penelope Jencks (figure); Michael Middleton Dwyer (boulder and foot stone)
  • Architect: Bruce Kelly/David Varnell
  • Description: Figure (heroic scale) half-seated against a boulder, circular foot stone, earth pedestal encircled by a low wall, concentric pavement, two inscribed pavers, two plaques
  • Materials: Figure, lettering on pavers, plaques--bronze; boulder, foot stone--Belfast black granite; low wall and pavers--granite; concentric pavement--bluestone
  • Dimensions: Figure H: 7'11" W:2'8½" D: 1'3"; boulder H: 4'1" W: 3'9" D: 2'9"; earth pedestal diameter 37'6"; pavers diameter 4' (approximate); biography plaque H: 1' W: 1'5½"; donor plaque H: 1'10" W: 3'; figure weight: 721 pounds
  • Cast: 1996
  • Dedicated: October 5, 1996
  • Foundry: Paul King Foundry (figure)
  • Fabricator: Giuliano Cecchirelli (boulder)
  • Donor: Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund
  • Inscription: Granite medallion 1:
    WHERE AFTER ALL, / DO UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS BEGIN? / IN SMALL PLACES, CLOSE TO HOME / SUCH ARE THE PLACES / WHERE EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD / SEEKS EQUAL JUSTICE, / EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, / EQUAL DIGNITY. / --- / ELEANOR ROOSEVELT / 1958 /

    Granite medallion 2:
    SHE WOULD RATHER LIGHT A CANDLE / THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS / AND HER GLOW / HAS WARMED THE WORLD / --- / ADLAI E. STEVENSON / 1962 /

    Plaque 1:
    ANNA ELEANOR ROOSEVELT / 1884-1962 / --- / BORN IN NEW YORK CITY ON OCTOBER 11, 1884, SHE WAS ORPHANED AT AGE / TEN AND EDUCATED IN ENGLAND. SHE MARRIED FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT / IN 1905 AND BORE SIX CHILDREN BETWEEN 1906 AND 1916. SHE BECAME A / LEADER IN NEW YORK STATE'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN THE 1920'S AND SERVED / ACTIVELY FOR FOUR YEARS AS WIFE OF GOVERNOR ROOSEVELT. FROM 1933 / TO 1945 SHE GREATLY EXPANDED THE ROLE OF FIRST LADY OF THE / UNITED STATES. SHE FOUGHT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF LABOR, MINORITIES, / THE POOR, WOMEN AND YOUNG PEOPLE. SHE WAS APPOINTED UNITED STATES / DELEGATE TO THE UNITED NATIONSBY PRESIDENT TRUMAN IN 1946. AS CHAIR / OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, SHE LED THE / SUCCESSFUL EFFORT THAT SECURED PASSAGE OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION / OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN 1948. SHE CONTINUED HER WORK AS TEACHER, WRITER, / ADVOCATE, AND HUMANITARIAN UNTIL HER DEATH ON NOVEMBER 7, 1962. / SHE IS REMEMBERED AS THE "FIRST LADY OF THE WORLD."

    Plaque 2:
    THE ELEANOR ROOSEVELT MONUMENT FUND EXPRESSES ITS GRATITUDE / TO THESE INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE GENEROSITY AND TALENT / THAT HELPED RESTORE THE SOUTH LAWN OF RIVERSIDE PARK / AND CREATED THIS MONUMENT TO ELEANOR ROOSEVELT. / --- / [28 NAMES] / --- / PENELOPE JENCKS, SCULPTOR / BRUCE KELLY/DAVID VARNELL, LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS / --- / RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK / RUTH W. MESSENGER, PRESIDENT OF THE BOROUGH OF MANHATTAN / RONNIE M. ELDRIDGE, MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL / --- / HENRY J. STERN, COMMISSIONER OF PARKS AND RECREATION / MCMXCVI /

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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Know Before You Go

ParkRiverside Park

The northernmost A-dock at the 79th Street Boat Basin is currently closed to public access for structural enhancements. The dock will be further supported with non-wood pilings and a new wave screen.
Anticipated Completion: Spring 2015

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