The New York Public Library building was designed by John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings. The magnificent Beaux-Arts building sits on a terrace that was designed to elevate the building above surrounding streets, to provide gathering places for people, and to provide a setting for public sculpture.
Sculptor Edward Clark Potter created the lions, which were carved in pink Tennessee marble by the Piccirilli brothers. They were later nicknamed “Patience” and “Fortitude” by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
The pediment statuary is by Paul Wayland Bartlett, and also carved by the Piccirilli brothers.
The fountains on either side of the library’s entrance are Truth” on the (South) side and “Beauty” on the (North). They are the works of the major American sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies.
Raffaele Menconi and the Tiffany Studios created the bronze flagpole bases, which have been called the most beautiful in the country.
The Library’s rear terrace, designed by Thomas Hastings includes classical ornaments such as garlands, urns, and ram’s heads. This is the site of the William Cullen Bryant Memorial. Bryant (1794-1878) was a newspaper editor, one of America’s most popular poets, and a civic improver who led the campaign to create Central Park. Herbert Adams, one of the best New York sculptors of his period, created the bronze figure of Bryant. The memorial was dedicated in 1911, at the completion of the library.
A bronze bust can be seen just to the west of the Bryant Memorial. In 1923, sculptor Jo Davidson created a bust of Gertrude Stein, American author, poet, playwright, and art collector. Stein was also famous for her Paris salon, where writers and artists like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Henri Matisse would meet. Now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Bryant Park bust is a cast made from the original.
On the north side of the park is a fine statue in bronze of William Earl Dodge (1805-83), businessman (a founder of Phelps, Dodge & Company, leaders in the copper trade) and philanthropist. John Quincy Adams Ward, an American, created the statue, which was dedicated in Herald Square, in 1885. In 1941, when Herald Square was renovated, the Dodge statue was moved to its present location.
At the western gateway to the park on the Fountain Terrace is the pink granite Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, dedicated in 1912. This was the city’s first public memorial dedicated to a woman. Lowell (1843-1905) was a social worker and progressive reform leader, best known for creating the New York Consumers League. She also founded several charitable organizations, including the New York Charity Organization, the Woman's Municipal League, and the Civil Service Reform Association of New York State. Charles Adams Platt designed the fountain.
On the south side of the park is a bronze bust of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the great German writer. The German sculptor Karl Fischer created the bust in 1832, the year of Goethe’s death. The Goethe Club of New York purchased it in 1876 and donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum in turn donated it to Bryant Park in 1932, the centenary of the writer’s death.
At the west end of the park is a bronze statue of José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva (1763-1838), dedicated in 1955. The statue was a gift from the people of Brazil at the time that Sixth Avenue was renamed to Avenue of the Americas in honor of pan-Afmerican cooperation. Andrada was a leader in the fight for Brazilian independence from Portugal and served as the newly independent country’s first prime minister. The sculptor is José Otavio Correia Lima.
The newest monument in Bryant Park is the statue of Benito Juárez, also at the west end of the park. A gift from the State of Oaxaca to the City of New York, this statue, handcrafted by Moises Cabrera Orozco, is the first Mexican figure to be placed in the city of New York. Juárez is a Mexican national hero and Mexico’s first president of Indian descent. Revered by his countrymen as a great political leader, Juárez, proclaimed the “Reforma Laws”, thus establishing the foundation for the Mexican Republic and preserving the independence of México.