Civic Fame

Civic Fame StatueCivic Fame was commissioned by the City to celebrate the five boroughs uniting to become the City of New York. Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952), designed the statue, perched atop the tower of the Manhattan Municipal Building, as well as the relief sculptures on the lower floors of the building. Weinman's credits include the Liberty Dime and the half dollar. The German-born sculptor's training and style coincided with the classical traditions exemplified by McKim, Mead and White, the architectural firm that designed the Municipal Building. Their collaborations were part of what is known as the American Renaissance; a movement to integrate all the arts of design as co-equal partners in a total ensemble of architecture. Civic Fame is a grand figure three times life size, of gilded copper supported on an iron skeleton. In construction she is similar to that of the Statue of Liberty, and like the Statue of Liberty she bears the emblems of her role: A shield with the coat of arms of the City, a branch of leaves, and "mural" crown -- that is a crown with five crenellations as of a City wall, representing the five boroughs of the City. Also on the crown are dolphins, symbolizing New York's maritime setting.

The 25 foot statue was installed 580' above the City she celebrates in March 1913. In 1936, the left arm of the statue fell off and went through a skylight on the 26th floor of the Municipal Building, which at that time, was a cafeteria. This prompted the first set of renovations to the statue. Civic Fame endured three-quarters of a century's worth of pollution, high winds, and ice water before needing a major renovation. In 1991 with restorative work ongoing to the facade of the Municipal Building, the City seized the opportunity to restore the statue as well. The French design firm responsible for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty torch, Les Metalliers Champenois, won the bid to restore Civic Fame. The cleaning not only revealed the original color and detail, but also a message from the past: "L. Conroy" carved his initials into the statue during the 1936 renovation. After 114 days "in the shop" Civic Fame was ready to go home, and on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, 1991, early morning risers were treated to the site of a helicopter transporting the renovated statue once again to her perch atop the Municipal Building.

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* Adapted from "Illustrated History of the Manhattan Municipal Building," 1989.