The Viele Map

Created by Egbert L. Viele in 1865, the Sanitary and Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York (aka the Viele map), shows the pre-grid, natural state of the island, including some 500 hills, 88 miles of streams, 21 ponds and 300 springs.
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I'm happy to now offer my walking tours directly on my (old, but still living) help research my upcoming book, I've developed a number of unique walking tours for a number of Manhattan's neighborhoods and districts. Please click the button below to view, or to book, a tour.

(coming soon, Tribeca: The Most Beautiful Warehouses in the World.)

And please look forward one day to Factory Island: The Inordinately Complex, Unbelievably Rich History of New York City on the Island of Manhattan.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harriet Tubman in Harlem: Not a Typical Outdoor Sculpture

There's somewhere around 200 works of outdoor sculpture in Manhattan.  Works in human form come in two basic types: real historical (e.g. George Washington), and allegorical, representing some sort of ideal (e.g. blindfolded justice).  I'm not sure where Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan figure in, but we'll put them aside for now.  Of allegorical figures, the numbers are about even: 30 or so each of men and women representing everything from Heroism and Mercy to Truth and Beauty.

Of the real historical figures, though, Manhattan has something on the order of 94 men and--up until Harriet Tubman set down on West 122nd in Harlem--5 women.  Women who have risen to statue-worthy status are Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt (both in Riverside Park), Gertrude Stein (Bryant Park), Golda Meir (a bust on Broadway at 39th Street), and Mother Clara Hale (152 West 122nd).

Technically I suppose we could include the enlarged replica of Picasso's Head of Sylvette in the courtyard of  NYU's Silver Towers, but 1. It's cubism and resembles a spaceship as much as a human head, and 2. She was Picasso's mistress, no Joan of Arc or Roosevelt. I suppose we could also count the statuettes along the facade of the I. Miller building at 46th Street in Times Square of Ethyl Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford and Rosa Ponselle.  I vote no because 1. Like allegorical figures each represents one of the theatrical arts: musical comedy, drama, opera and film, and 2. They are each represented as a character they were noted for, not themselves.

Now, of the 200 or so sculptures in Manhattan, I have counted only about 6 or so in Harlem (though I'm not considering Morningside or Hamilton Heights, which can justifiably be considered Harlem).  So the arrival of Harriet Tubman at 122nd Street and 7th Ave satisfies two shortcomings in the city's statuary stock: a statue of a historic woman, and another statue in Harlem.  Here she is, along with some of the other outdoor sculpture of Harlem...  (and thanks to Lee Gelber for always expanding my knowledge of New York.) 

I'll let the plaque speak for sure to read the last paragraph to understand the details in the monument

I made these especially large so you can see the details in the sculpture

Details along the base...

Other Harlem sculpture...

Harlem Hybrid, 1976 by Richard Hunt. An abstract rock outcropping on 125th Street with St. Joseph's Church behind...

Frederick Douglass (at 110th Street, maybe more Central Park than Harlem)...


  1. That's an awesome statue! (Love the detail shots!) I think I'll take a walk today on a break from work and have a look at it. You said it was new - was it just built this year?

  2. It's new in a geological sort of way, about 2 or 3 years old. In the imaginary blog in my head I posted it when it was first installed.

  3. more than outstanding! so glad I googled and found this!

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  6. Wonderful and Extremely Important Tribute! What a brave, selfless, and true human being she was!