Update: The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is currently closed.
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College, the original “Hall of Fame” in the United States, is part of a National Historic Landmarked campus. Designed in 1900 and dedicated in 1901, it honors prominent Americans who had a significant impact on the nation’s history.
Built on the crest on one of the highest natural peaks in New York City in a sweeping semicircular Neo-Classical arc, it provides a panorama across the Harlem River to the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park and beyond to the Palisades. The principal feature of the Hall of Fame is its 630-foot open-air Colonnade, which houses the bronze portrait busts of the honorees.
The Colonnade was designed with niches to accommodate 102 sculptured works and currently houses the busts and commemorative plaques of 96 of the 102 honorees elected since 1900. The 96 bronze busts that line the Colonnade are original works by distinguished American sculptors. The bronze tablets recessed in the wall beneath the busts were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and carry inscriptions of significant statements made by the men and women honored.
In the first half of the 20th century, there was no higher honor in America than to be made a “Hall of Famer.” In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy is told by the Munchkins that “you will be a bust, be a bust, be a bust in the Hall of Fame!” But by the 1970s interest in this national institution waned. New York University sold its Bronx campus in 1973. New York State assumed ownership on behalf of Bronx Community College, part of the City University of New York.
After commanding the attention of the nation for three-quarters of a century, it is now almost entirely unknown to both tourists and residents of New York City.
Know Before You Go
Enter through Bronx Community College gates on Hall of Fame Terrace. The College offers free tours, but be sure to call.