Columbus Circle is a large traffic circle in Manhattan. At its center stands a monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. From the traffic circle, you can admire the surrounding architecture, including several modern skyscrapers and one of New York’s largest monuments.
History of the Circle
Located at the intersection of Broadway, Central Park West, Central Park South (59th Street), and Eighth Avenue, situated at the southwest corner of Central Park, the Columbus Circle was completed in 1905. The designer of the park, Frederick Law Olmsted, had planned this site for the entrance to Central Park, hoping to create a grand entryway for what was to be one of the largest city parks in the world.
The circle itself was designed by William Eno, who was known for devising ways to make travel safer, even in the days when cars were few in New York City.
Christopher Columbus Monument
The monument of Christopher Columbus, which sits in the center of the circle and is often overlooked by busy tourists, was erected in 1892 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the great explorer’s voyage to the Americas. A marble statue of Columbus, created by Gaetano Russo, stands about twenty-one meters (70 ft) above ground on a granite column that rests on a stepped base.
The column is decorated with bronze ship prows that represent the explorer’s three famous ships: the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. At the base of the column is a statue of a winged boy holding a globe, paying homage to global exploration. Below him, a bronze relief shows Columbus and his men setting foot on the New Continent.
Time Warner Center
Columbus Circle is dominated by the twin towers of the Time Warner Center. The modern glass skyscraper was constructed between 2000 and 2004 at the site of the former New York Coliseum Convention center. It houses the world headquarters of Time Warner as well as a hotel, luxury apartments and a retail center.
Museum of Arts and Design
On the southern side, Columbus Circle is bordered by one of New York’s most peculiar buildings, 2 Columbus Circle. It was originally built in 1965 by Edward Durell Stone for Huntington Hartford, a wealthy businessman who wanted to display his private collection of modern art here.
The twelve-story marble building, which barely had any windows, looked more like an austere mausoleum rather than a museum. At the time, the building’s design was panned by architecture critics.
In 2008 2 Columbus Circle was completely reclad with terracotta and large glass panels now allow light to enter the exhibition galleries. Today the building is home to the Museum of Arts and Design, a museum with a varied collection of contemporary creations.
Opposite Time Warner Center, near Merchants’ Gate – one of Central Park‘s main entrances – visitors are welcomed by the imposing Maine Monument. The monument was built from 1901 to 1913 to commemorate the more than 250 sailors who perished in 1898 when the battleship Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba.
The monument consists of a limestone base in the shape of a ship’s prow, topped by a tall pylon and crowned with a large gilded sculpture of Columbia Triumphant. The base is flanked by statues of allegorical figures representing Justice, Peace, Victory, Courage and Fortitude.
The circle itself was renovated in 2005 and many amenities were added such as fountains, a larger grassy area, plantings, and benches; designed not only to make Columbus Circle more attractive but also to offer a respite to weary travelers.