It took Columbus 400 years to get to the Upper West Side. But even though it wasn’t on his original itinerary, he made his way to a lofty perch between Central Park and The Shops at Columbus Circle and is standing on primo space with a coveted view.
As visitors to The Shops at Columbus Circle prepare to observe the Oct. 10 national holiday named in his honor, they might want to crane their necks a bit and salute the marble statue atop a granite column that towers some 75 feet above them.
The 13-foot-tall rendering of Columbus was created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo, who was clearly aiming for grandeur when he unveiled the monument in 1892. Il Progresso, a New York-based Italian-language newspaper, had raised funds to enable Russo to cast a work commemorating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas – and the artist rose to the challenge.
The inscription on the base reads, in part: "Joy and glory/Never uttered a more thrilling call/Than that which resounded/From the conquered ocean/In sight of the first American island/Land! Land!"
The monument soon became the centerpiece and namesake of a traffic circle in 1905 (part of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead’s grand vision for the southwest entrance to Central Park). Columbus Circle soon became the point from which all official distances from New York City are measured.
Later, the intersection made cameo appearances in more than a dozen films, including The Devil Wears Prada, Eyes of Laura Mars, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and — most famously — the original Ghostbusters, in 1984.
Today, Columbus continues to brave the elements, peering down Eighth Avenue, his right hand on a ship’s tiller, standing watch over shoppers looking to discover modern treasures at The Shops at Columbus Circle and looking for more horizons to discover.