City Hall Park
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“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
This graceful, 13-foot standing bronze figure, sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies (1863-1937), directly faces City Hall and honors the last moments of the 21-year-old American Revolution era spy, Nathan Hale (1755-1776).
Disguised as a Dutch schoolteacher, Hale attempted to infiltrate New York’s British ranks to gather intelligence on the enemy’s Long Island military installations. The young man was captured, however, on the night of September 21, 1776 and hanged for treason the next morning on a gallows believed to have been erected near 63rd Street and First Avenue.
Since no life portraits of the patriot spy exist, Frederick Macmonnies’s work offers a romantic interpretation of Hale. The bronze statue of the shackled and bound Hale is set upon a granite base and illustrates the hero’s last predawn moments. Though only 26 when he won the Nathan Hale Memorial Competition, Macmonnies’s sculpture brought him great renown in New York City and also won him a medal from the prestigious Paris Salon.
MacMonnies is well represented in New York’s parks, with more than a dozen pieces throughout the city, including Horse Tamers (1899) in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the Army and Navy groups (1901 and 1902) and Quadriga (1901) on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, and Civic Virtue (1922), located beside Queens Borough Hall at the corner of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike.
Nathan Hale was dedicated by the Sons of the Revolution of New York State on the anniversary of Evacuation Day (commemorating the departure of the last British soldier from the colonies in 1783), November 25, 1893. A gathering is held annually by the Sons of the Revolution on September 22nd at this site, commemorating the anniversary of Hale’s death. The sculpture has been moved several times. In 1999 the statue was moved from Broadway at Murray Street to its current location on the lawn facing City Hall’s entrance plaza and was conserved as part of the park’s general renovation.
Nathan Hale Details
- Location: In front of City Hall steps
- Sculptor: Frederick William MacMonnies
- Architect: Stanford White
- Description: Figure (heroic scale) on pedestal, bandeau at base
- Materials: Bronze (green patina), Massachusetts pink granite (polished)
- Dimensions: Figure H: 9' W: 3' D: 2'; Base W: 2'3" D: 1'7¾"; Pedestal H: 6'2" Diameter: 4'; Bandeau H: 2' Diameter: 4'5"
- Cast: 1890
- Dedicated: November 25, 1893
- Foundry: Jaboeuf & Bezout
- Donor: Sons of the Revolution of New York State
- Inscription: 1) base, proper left: "[signed] Frederick MacMonnies / Paris 1890"
2) base, proper right: "Jaboeuf & Bezout / Fondeurs à Paris"
3) pedestal, front: "NATHAN HALE. /---/ A CAPTAIN / IN THE REGULAR / ARMY / OF THE / UNITED STATES / WHO GAVE HIS LIFE / FOR HIS COUNTRY / IN THE CITY OF / NEW YORK / SEPT. 22nd / 1776."
4) bandeau: "'I REGRET THAT I HAVE BUT ONE LIFE TO LOSE FOR MY COUNTRY'"
5) in field: "EXECI MONUMENTUM AERE PERENNUS / 1776 / 1883 / SONS OF THE REVOLUTION"
6) outer band: "ERECTED BY THE SONS OF THE REVOLUTION OF THE STATE OF / NEW YORK"