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John Purroy Mitchel
This granite and bronze piece honors John Purroy Mitchel (1879–1918), who, as mayor of New York from 1914 to 1917, was known for his uncompromising idealism and scrupulous honesty. Dedicated in 1928, the work consists of a stele, bust, and ornamental wall and is located on the eastern embankment of Central Park’s Reservoir at 90th Street. The Mitchel Memorial Committee retained architects Thomas Hastings and Don Barber to design the expansive granite stele and commissioned German-born sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870–1952) to design the gilded bronze portrait bust of Mitchel. In 1926, Weinman also designed a monument in Brooklyn to William Jay Gaynor, who served immediately before Mitchel, and paved the way for Mitchel’s pro-reform mayoralty.
Mitchel was born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in the Fordham section of the Bronx. His grandfather, John Mitchel, was a renowned writer and leader in the Irish independence movement. The younger Mitchel rose to prominence in 1906, just five years after his graduation from New York Law School, for investigating Manhattan Borough President John F. Ahern and Bronx Borough President Louis Haffen; both were removed from office as a result of the investigation. Behind the support of anti-Tammany forces and on the basis of his reputation as a reformer, Mitchel was elected President of the Board of Aldermen in 1909. Four years later the 34-year-old Mitchel was elected mayor, becoming the youngest in the city’s history.
Mitchel enlisted to serve in World War I shortly after failing to be reelected, joining the Army aviation corps. On July 6, 1918, Mitchel was killed instantly when he fell 500 feet from his plane to the ground during a training flight in Lake Charles, Louisiana. New Yorkers responded to Mitchel’s death with a flurry of eulogies and memorials. An airforce base in Long Island, now the site of Hofstra University and the Nassau Coliseum, was named in Mitchel’s honor and a small park in Upper Manhattan along Broadway at West 166th Street was named for him as well. The monument was conserved in 1986 and the sculpture was regilded in 1998.
John Purroy Mitchel Details
- Location: Fifth Avenue at 90th Street
- Sculptor: Adolph Alexander Weinman
- Architect: Thomas Hastings, Donn Barber
- Description: Stele, bust, ornamental wall
- Materials: North Jay granite, bronze, slate
- Dimensions: H: 12'6" W: 12'
- Dedicated: 1928
- Donor: Mitchel Memorial Committee
- Inscription: IN MEMORY OF / JOHN PURROY MITCHEL / MAYOR OF THE / CITY OF NEW
YORK / 1914-1918 / BORN JULY 19, 1879 / DIED IN THE / SERVICE OF
THE / UNITED STATES / JULY 6, 1918/
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