One of a trio of bronze equestrian sculptures representing Latin American leaders, the Simon Bolivar statue commemorates a military general and advocate of Pan-Americanism. Bolivar is credited with the liberation from Spanish domination of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Panama.
R. De Las Cora designed the first statue of Simon Bolivar that was installed in Central Park in 1891 on a knoll near West 83rd Street, dubbed “Bolivar Hill.” Critics of the statue believed it did not live up to the original artistic vision and it was subsequently removed at the direction of the Park Board. Sculptor Giovanni Turinni submitted a second interpretation of Bolivar in 1897, but it was rejected by the National Sculpture Society, which at that time advised the Board on sculpture installations.
In 1916, the Venezuelan government sponsored a worldwide competition to select a sculptor to render Bolivar. From 20 entrants, the committee selected Sally James Farnham, a relatively unknown sculptor. Farnham’s statue depicts Bolivar in full military dress upon his steed, which has its hoofs in the air. The sculpture was dedicated at Bolivar Hill on April 19, 1921. United States President Warren G. Harding, who spoke at the event, used the occasion to deliver a major policy address in which he urged greater cooperation between North and South America.
In 1945, Sixth Avenue was renamed Avenue of the Americas at the suggestion of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947), to honor Pan-American ideals and principles. A new plaza was designed where the avenue meets Central Park. The statue of Bolivar was moved to the eastern side of the plaza, placed on a new black granite pedestal designed by the firm of Clarke and Rapuano, and rededicated on April 19, 1951. A month later, the statue of Argentine general Jose de San Martin was unveiled on the plaza’s west side, and in 1965 the dynamic statue of Cuban poet and activist Jose Marti was dedicated between the two earlier works.
Central Park was designated a scenic landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1974.
National Historic Register #66000538