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This solemn bronze portrait by Henry Baerer (1837-1908) depicts local entrepreneur and philanthropist Conrad Poppenhusen (1818-1883), who helped to transform the community of College Point, Queens, and left it a lasting legacy.
Poppenhusen was born in Hamburg, Germany on April 1, 1818. After working for a merchant as a whalebone purchaser in Europe, Poppenhusen moved to the United States in 1843 to set up a whalebone processing plant on the Brooklyn waterfront. In 1852 he obtained a license from Charles Goodyear to manufacture hard rubber goods, and then moved his firm to a farming village in what is now Queens.
Poppenhusen is credited with creating the Village of College Point, which was formed in 1870 when it incorporated the neighborhoods of Flammersburg and Strattonport. In order to accommodate his factory workers, he initiated numerous developments, including the establishment of housing, the First Reformed Church, and construction of streets.
In 1868 he opened the Flushing and North Side Railroad, which connected the town to New York City. In that same year he also founded the Poppenhusen Institute, which was comprised of a vocational high school and the first free kindergarten in the United States. It is the oldest school in Queens today. After Poppenhusen retired in 1871, his family lost much of its fortune due to financial mismanagement by his three sons. Conrad Poppenhusen died in College Point on December 12, 1883.
In 1884 residents of College Point raised $1,800 to commission this statue of Poppenhusen as a lasting reminder of his achievements. The sculptor, Henry Baerer created a larger-than-life sized bust of Poppenhusen positioned on top of a tall gray granite pedestal. Poppenhusen has a thoughtful expression, his face framed by his luxuriant beard. Baerer was born in Kirscheim, Germany, and came to the United States in 1854. He was especially well-known as a portrait sculptor, and contributed six sculptures to the parks of New York City, including statues of composer Ludwig von Beethoven in Prospect and Central Parks, and a full-standing figure of General Gouveneur Kemble Warren in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.
Besides this sculpture and park triangle Poppenhusen is honored by a playground located at 20th Avenue, 123rd Street, 21st Avenue and 124th Street. The restored Poppenhusen Institute has undergone a renaissance in recent years, and offers a diverse selection of arts, education and social programs. Parks’ maintenance of this park and sculpture is augmented through the dedicated efforts of long-time volunteer and “gardening angel” Betty Pegen, who tends the beautiful floral displays.
Conrad Poppenhusen Details
- Location: Poppenhusen Triangle, College Point Boulevard, 12th Avenue
- Sculptor: Henry Baerer
- Description: Bust on pedestal on stepped base
- Materials: Bronze, Barre granite
- Dimensions: H: 12'6" W: 5' D: 5'
- Cast: 1884
- Dedicated: November 1,1884
- Donor: Residents of College Point
- Inscription: POPPENHUSEN / TO THE MEMORY OF / THE BENEFACTOR OF / COLLEGE POINT/
ERECTED NOV. 1, 1884/