A female student sat comfortably perched between the busts of James Madison and Andrew Jackson in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans on the campus of Bronx Community College on a chilly afternoon on Monday, November 12.
What she probably didn’t know was that her lunch spot is actually the first Hall of Fame in the United States, or that it’s condition is now considered to be ‘at risk.’
Since 2003, The Cultural Landscape Foundation has released annual reports of cultural landscapes across America that currently face jeopardizing circumstances; its 2018 list came out that Monday.
Surely enough, BCC’s Hall of Fame made the list due to its ongoing deterioration.
While the classically-designed open-air Colonnade boasts the busts of many great Americans throughout the nation’s history, the Hall is looking a little busted up itself.
From a damaged cornice on the Hall’s canopy, to defunct lighting fixtures, along with surface damage and stains to the busts and pedestals themselves, the historic and elegant Hall could definitely use some refurbishment.
“It’s mostly from rain and snow weathering away at it over the years,” said Michael Quinn, the senior editor for BCC’s communications and marketing department.
The Hall belts around his office in Gould Memorial Library, another classically-designed building on BCC’s campus.
This one meant to mirror the Roman Pantheon.
“The real treat is when it’s raining,” Quinn said while pointing to the gargoyles on the Hall’s cornice. “Those are real functioning gargoyles and rain water pours out of them, just like a rain gutter,” he added.
According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, the primary reason why repairs for the Hall have been put on hold is because BCC can’t foot the $12 million bill.
Even if the CUNY community college were to invest in repairing only the damages that require urgent attention, it would still cost $1.2 million.
The college established the BCC Foundation in 1985 to raise funds for the Hall’s maintenance amongst others needs, but recently it hasn’t sufficed.
While giving a tour of the Hall, Quinn explained how the British used the elevated land that the hall as a fort to keep an eye on the Hudson and Harlem rivers during the Revolutionary War.
Ironically enough, the grand arches of the George Washington Bridge are now visible from the Hall.
That’s one of many things that the average 50,000 annual visitors learn on the historic walk.
Designed by famous architect Stanford White, the Hall was formally dedicated in 1901 when the campus was part of New York University.
It wasn’t until 1973 that BCC technically inherited the Hall. Since that time, a few of the 96 busts have been removed due to historical controversy.
The most notable being Confederate general and West Point graduate, Robert E. Lee.
A more minor reason for the Hall’s at risk status is due to its obscurity, the Landscape Foundation says.
Quinn also acknowledged how many of the historic figures in the Hall wouldn’t ring a bell for passersby, not even Alexander Graham.
“Not many know that Stanford White was shot to death in public or that his killer’s trial was as notorious as OJ Simpson’s, (at the time)” Quinn explained. “The most we can do now is raise as much awareness as possible,” the historian said.
To donate to the hefty bill visit: www.bcc.cuny.edu/