Many of the old monuments of New York City weren’t always where we see them today. In the 1800’s, the design and construction of monuments was the vogue of the day. Since then, these monuments were moved throughout the city. Some are found in very obscure parts in city parks and cemeteries. What many see as a fixed positioning of a great city may not realize that it is driven by changes. The fountains of City Hall Park seem to shift every few generations.
The grand center fountain in New York’s City Hall Park was created by Jacob Wrey Mold in 1871 and was located 200 feet northeast of its current position, closer to City Hall and Park Row. In 1920, the fountain was disassembled and moved to Crotona Park in the East Bronx.
Fountains played significant roles in the City Hall Park. The Croton Fountain was among the first. It celebrated the completion of New York’s first water transport tunnel from Croton. In 1835, the fountain was removed to make way for the Grand Post Office, at the south end of the park.
In 1920 the Mould fountain was moved to Crotona Park in the Bronx to make way for Civic Virtue, a controversial fountain by MacMonnies that showed a male figure stepping over two prone female figures. From 1922 to 1941, it was the subject of many protests, until Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia had it moved to Queens.
Yet, it wasn’t merely the statue that caused uproar. New York’s Grand Post Office stood on the southern end of what is now City Hall Park. It was there from 1871 to 1938.
After a legal battle of whether the building stood on federal or city land, this building was demolished to make way for renovations to the City Hall Park, prior to the opening mof the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
The spot was dry until 1972, when the Delacorte Fountain was installed. But in 1999, the city began a $34.6 million project to restore the park. The Delacorte fountain was moved to the Bronx at Borough Hall Park and the Mould fountain, with its original granite base, was returned with a reconstructed centerpiece and lighting fixtures. The restored Mould Fountain has its original gas lighting. Tourists and New Yorkers admire this grand fountain as if it was always here.
Jacob Wrey Mould was a designer and architect in New York during the 19th Century. He is responsible for designing Central Park’s Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Fountain. He was also a principle designer of The American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Surprisingly, New York’s original City Hall was located on Wall Street. The origin of this land was originally the British Commons. When City Hall moved to its current location, it took space from the Bridewell Jail, a debtor’s Prison.