Straus Park is named for Isidor Straus and his wife Ida, who died on April 15, 1912 when the S.S. Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from England to America. The ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank three hours later. More than 1500 passengers and crew members died in the disaster. The inscription on the rear exedra of the Straus Memorial pays tribute to Ida’s decision to remain aboard with her husband rather than save herself by boarding a lifeboat with the women and children.
Isidor Straus was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1845. The Straus family immigrated to America in 1854 and settled in Georgia. After the Civil War, they relocated to New York where Lazarus Straus began L. Straus & Sons with his sons, Isidor and Nathan. By 1888 the brothers had advanced from operating a crockery concession at R.H. Macy & Co. to owning the company. In 1902 they opened the world’s largest department store, Macy’s at Herald Square. They also became partners in Abraham & Straus in 1893 (in operation until 1995 when Federated Department Stores discontinued the name). In 1871 Isidor married Ida Blun (1849-1912), who was from Worms, Germany. In addition to raising their six children, Ida joined her husband as a philanthropist with a special concern for health, education, and other public services.
This triangle was named for the Strauses, who lived in a frame house at 2747 Broadway, near 105th Street, by the Board of Aldermen in 1912. The Straus Memorial fountain, in which the bronze figure of Memory reclines in contemplation, was dedicated on April 15, 1915. It was funded by citizens’ contributions and created by sculptor Augustus Lukeman and architect Evarts Tracy, who designed the fountain and exedra. A decorative bronze trough, installed by the ASPCA, stood at the north end of the site from 1907 until shortly before World War II.
This land was acquired by the City in 1895 and was previously known as Schuyler Square and as Bloomingdale Square, which took its name from Bloomingdale Road, the former name of Broadway. It remained unimproved, however, until the Straus Memorial was installed at the site. The park also played a part in Revolutionary War history as the western end of the fortification built by British forces following their capture of Manhattan on September 15, 1776.
From 1995 to 1997 Straus Park was renovated and expanded to the west, by the addition of 15 feet of the bed of West End Avenue. Improvements in the $800,000 capital project include the addition of benches, lighting, shrubs, fencing, and paving. Restoration of the monument, for which the Straus family has established an endowment fund, includes the transformation of its reflecting pool into a planting bed. The Friends of Straus Park, a project of the West 106th Street Block Association, was formed to promote security, cleanliness, and programming in the park to preserve its important position in the neighborhood.