Straus Memorial

Sculptor: Augustus Lukeman
Architect: Evarts Tracy
Dedicated: 1915
Medium & size: Bronze (3 x 7 feet); granite fountain and exedra (approximately 15 feet wide)
Location: West 106th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue
Subway: 1 to 103rd Street

Straus

Audrey Munson, Super Model

During her teens and 20s, Audrey Munson (1891-1996) was in great demand as a model for sculptors: she had a talent for coming up with poses appropriate for the allegorical figures so popular in the early 20th century. Her figure and gestures are immortalized in many sculptures whose faces don't look like hers. She even parlayed her fame and beauty into roles in early silent films.

But by the time Munson turned 30, her career was blighted by a media frenzy after her ex-landlord killed his wife for love of Audrey (so the press lasciviously speculated). She spent the last 65 years of her life in a mental hospital.

Above: A rare photo of Audrey in a cheerful mood.

Two of my favorite Munson appearances are as Manhattan (flanked by a peacock) and Brooklyn (flanked by a child reading a book).

French, Manhattan

French, Brooklyn

In 1907 these were dedicated on the east end of the Manhattan Bridge, where new-fangled automobiles soon covered both with soot. Today Brooklyn and Manhattan bracket the entrance to the Brooklyn Museum.

For more Munson, see the Firemen's Memorial and the Maine Memorial by Attilio Piccirilli, and America and Europe, two of the Continents by Daniel Chester French.

The Titanic

The Straus Memorial honors a couple who died on the Titanic. Although the Titanic was at the time the largest ship afloat, by today's cruise-ship standards she was of moderate size, carrying a mere 2,435 passengers. (Today's largest cruise ship carries 6,400.)

Titanic at dock

Above: The Titanic at the Southampton dock in April 1912.

One of the eeriest accounts of the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic is this survivor's description of what he saw as his lifeboat was about to be picked up:

As we neared the Carpathia we saw in the dawning light what we thought was a full rigged schooner standing near her, and presently another behind her, all sails set, and we said, 'They are fisher boats from the Newfoundland Bank and have seen the steamer lying to and are standing by to help.' But in another five minutes the light shown pink on them, and we saw they were icebergs, towering many feet in the air, huge, glistening masses, deadly white, still and peaked in a way that had easily suggested a schooner. We glanced around the horizon and there were others wherever the eye could reach. The steamer we had to reach was surrounded by them.... (New York Times 4/19/1912)

Macy's, not Herald Square

Leaping from the enormous Titanic to quaintly small origins of the "World's Largest Department Store": when Macy's was a storefront on 14th Street at Sixth Avenue, its name was so unfamiliar that it appears on the signage in smaller print than "shawls, cloaks, mantillas."

Cross References

  • The New York Herald's headquarters that gave its name to Herald Square (where the present Macy's is located) is mentioned in the Monuments of Manhattan video on the Bennett Memorial.
  • Pennsylvania Station is the focus of the video on Samuel Rea.
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan discusses the interpretation of this sculpture and the Titanic's voyage, with a quote from a Shakespeare sonnet.

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante