Henry Hudson Park

Henry Hudson Monument

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

This massive column commemorates Henry Hudson (1575–1611), who is credited as the first European to discover the Hudson River. Hudson is depicted at the top of the column in a monumental bronze sculpture by Karl Bitter (1867–1915). Clad in seafaring garb, Hudson stands as if balancing himself on a ship’s deck. The relief on the south side depicts Hudson receiving his commission from the Dutch East India Company, and the relief on the north side portrays the first fur trading post on Manhattan.

On September 2, 1609, the English captain of the Dutch ship Halve Maen (Half Moon) directed his ship to drop anchor in the lower bay of what is now known as New York Harbor. Henry Hudson had been hired by the Dutch East India Company to find a sea route through North America to the Far East. The ship sailed up the river that now bears his name, docking off Spuyten Duyvil and attempting travel even further upstream before abandoning the quest, realizing that the river was narrowing. Hudson’s last voyage was in 1611 when, after discovering Hudson’s Bay and claiming it for England, his crew mutinied and cast him adrift.

In 1906 civic leaders organized the Hudson-Fulton Celebration to mark the 300th anniversary of Hudson’s Halve Maen and the 100th anniversary of the voyage of Robert Fulton’s (1765–1815) North River Steamboat. Plans were made to erect a monument to Hudson and a Hudson Memorial Bridge linking the Inwood district of Manhattan with Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx. Local business leaders raised funds for the monument and donated a site, and in 1909, crews broke ground on the project. Sculptor Bitter prepared a plaster model of Hudson, and the architectural firm of Babb, Cook and Welch designed the 100-foot-high Doric column, which was erected by 1912. The project was postponed indefinitely when funds ran out and Bitter died in a car accident in 1915.

In 1935 Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888–1981) revived the idea for a monument as part of his Henry Hudson Bridge and Park project. Sculptor Karl H. Gruppe, a student of Bitter, redesigned the figure of Hudson and the two seven foot bas-reliefs along the base of the column (Gruppe also helped complete work on Bitter’s unfinished Pulitzer Fountain in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza). Since the monument was dedicated on January 6, 1938, Henry Hudson has continued to keep watch from his elevated position over the parkway, bridge, and the ever-changing landscape along the river that bears his name.

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