Columbus Circle

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Coordinates: 40°46′05″N 73°58′55″W / 40.76806°N 73.98194°W / 40.76806; -73.98194

The statue of Christopher Columbus by Gaetano Russo in the middle of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York City.

Columbus Circle is a traffic circle and heavily trafficked intersection in the New York City borough of Manhattan, located at the intersection of Eighth Avenue, Broadway, Central Park South (West 59th Street), and Central Park West, at the southwest corner of Central Park. The circle is the point from which official highway distances from New York City are measured, as well as the center of the 25 miles (40 km) restricted-travel area for C-2 visa holders.

The circle is named after the monument of Christopher Columbus in the center. The name is also used for the neighborhood a few blocks around the circle in each direction. To the south of the circle lies Hell's Kitchen, also known as "Clinton", and the Theater District, and to the north is the Upper West Side.


Columbus atop the rostral column, a traditional form to commemorate naval achievements.

The 76-foot (23 m) Columbus Column monument at the center of the circle, created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo,[1] consists of a 14-foot (4.3 m) marble statue of Columbus atop a 27.5-foot (8.4 m) granite rostral column[2] on a four-stepped granite pedestal.[3] The column is decorated with bronze reliefs representing Columbus' ships: the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María, although actually they are Roman galleys instead of caravels. Its pedestal features an angel holding a globe.[1]

The monument was one of three planned as part of the city's 1892 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the Americas.[3] Originally, the monument was planned to be located in Bowling Green or somewhere else in lower Manhattan. By the time Russo's plan was decided upon in 1890, a commission of Italian businessmen from around the United States had contributed $12,000 of the $20,000 needed to build the statue (equivalent to $327,000 of the $545,000 cost in modern dollars).[4] The statue was constructed with funds raised by Il Progresso, a New York City-based Italian-language newspaper.[1]

Russo created parts of the Columbus Column in his Rome studio and in other workshops in Italy;[3] the bronze elements were cast in the Nelli Foundry.[5] The completed column was shipped to the United States in September 1892, to be placed within the "circle at Fifty-ninth Street and Eighth Avenue".[6] Once the statue arrived in Manhattan, it was quickly transported to the circle.[2] The monument was officially unveiled with a ceremony on October 13, 1892, as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations.[7][8][9]:287

The monument received some retouching in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage, and in turn, the monument's own 100th anniversary.[9]:288 It was also rededicated that year.[10]

Amid the 2017 monument controversies in the United States, an issue arose over the statue due to criticism of Columbus's alleged mistreatment of the native people on Hispaniola. In August of that year, there had been a far-right rally Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in a death and several injuries. Following that rally, Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a "90-day review" of possibly "hateful" monuments across the city to determine if any of them, including the Columbus Column, warranted either removal or recontextualization (e.g. by explanatory plaques).[11][12] Although calls to remove the monument were supported by those criticizing Columbus's actions, the proposed removal was opposed by some sectors of the city's Italian American community and Columbus Day Parade organizers.[13][14] Due to two incidents of vandalism in September 2017, full-time security measures were put around the column ahead of the year's parade.[15]


Columbus Circle during construction of the original subway in 1900
Subway construction under the Columbus monument in 1901

The traffic circle was designed in 1857, as part of Frederick Law Olmsted's vision for Central Park, which included a "Grand Circle" at the Merchants' Gate, its most important Eighth Avenue entrance.[16] After the 1892 installation of the Columbus Column in the circle's center, it became known as "Columbus Circle",[9]:287[17]:124 although its other names were also used through the 1900s.[18] By 1901, construction on the first subway line required the excavation of the circle, and the column and streetcar tracks through the area were put on temporary wooden stilts.[19][9]:288 During construction, traffic in the circle was so dangerous that the Municipal Art Society proposed redesigning the roundabout.[18][20] By February 1904, the station underneath was largely complete,[21] and service on the subway line began on October 27, 1904.[22]:162–191[23]

The second of Eno's Columbus Circle plans, 1909
Columbus Circle in 1939

Later that year, due to the high speeds of cars passing through the circle, the New York City Police Department added tightly spaced electric lights on the inner side of the circle, surrounding the column.[24] The current circle was redesigned in 1905 by William P. Eno, a businessman who pioneered many early innovations in road safety and traffic control.[25][26] In a 1920 book, Eno writes that prior to the implementation of his plan, traffic went around the circle in both directions, causing accidents almost daily. The 1905 plan, which he regarded as temporary, created a counterclockwise traffic pattern with a "safety zone" in the center of the circle for cars stopping; however, the circle was too narrow for the normal flow of traffic. Eno also wrote of a permanent plan, with the safety zones on the outside as well as clearly delineated pedestrian crossings.[27] The redesign marked the first true one-way traffic circle to be constructed anywhere, implementing the ideas of Eugène Hénard.[26][28] In this second scheme, the public space within the circle, around the monument, was almost as small as the monument's base.[29]

Eno's circular-traffic plan was abolished in 1929, with traffic now allowed to go around the circle in both directions.[29] In 1956, in preparation for the opening of the New York Coliseum on the circle's west side, two north-south roadways were cut through the circle's center, on either side of the Columbus statue.[30] By the late 20th century, it was regarded as one of the most inhospitable of the city's major intersections, as the interior circle was being used for motorcycle parking, and the circle as a whole was hard for pedestrians to cross. In 1979, noted architecture critic Paul Goldberger said that the intersection was "a chaotic jumble of streets that can be crossed in about 50 different ways—all of them wrong."[29]

In 1987, the city awarded a $20 million contract to Olin Partnership and Vollmer Associates to create a new design for the circle.[29] The circle was refurbished in 1991–1992 as part of the 500th-anniversary celebration of Columbus's arrival in the Americas.[31][9]:288 In 1998, as a result of the study, the circular-traffic plan was reinstated, with all traffic going around the circle in a counterclockwise direction. The center of the circle was planned for further renovations, with a proposed park 200 feet (61 m) across.[32]

The design for a full renovation of the circle was finalized in 2001.[33] The project started in 2003, and was completed in 2005. It included a new water fountain by Water Entertainment Technologies, who also designed the Fountains of Bellagio; benches made of ipe wood; and plantings encircling the monument.[29][31] The fountain, the main part of the reconstructed circle, contains 99 jets that periodically change in force and speed, with effects ranging between "swollen river, a rushing brook, a driving rain or a gentle shower".[29] The inner circle is about 36,000 square feet (3,300 m2), while the outer circle is around 148,000 square feet (13,700 m2). The redesign was the recipient of the 2006 American Society of Landscape Architects’ General Design Award Of Honor.[33] In 2007 Columbus Circle was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal.[34]

As a geographic center

Columbus Circle is the traditional municipal zero-mile point from which all official distances are measured,[35] although Google Maps uses New York City Hall for this purpose.[36] For decades, Hagstrom sold maps that showed the areas within 25 miles (40 km)[37] or 75 miles (121 km)[38] from Columbus Circle.

The travel area for recipients of a C-2 visa, which is issued for the purpose of immediate and continuous transit to or from the headquarters of the United Nations, is limited to a 25-mile radius of Columbus Circle.[39] The same circle coincidentally defines the city's "film zone" that local unions operate in, a counterpart to Los Angeles' studio zone.[40][41][42][43] The New York City government employee handbook considers a trip beyond a 75-mile radius from Columbus Circle as long-distance travel.[44][45]


View of Columbus Circle, looking east at Central Park South from inside the Time Warner Center

The five streets that radiate outward from Columbus Circle separate the immediate neighborhood around the circle into five distinct portions.[46][47]


To the west of the circle is a superblock spanning two streets, bounded by Broadway, 60th Street, Ninth Avenue, 58th Street, and Eighth Avenue.[46] The superblock was formerly two separate blocks.[9]:914 From 1902 to 1954, the Majestic Theatre occupied the more southerly of the two blocks.

Robert Moses demapped 59th Street through the block during the New York Coliseum's construction from 1954 to 1956.[9]:914[48] The construction project, in turn, was the culmination of an effort to remove San Juan Hill, the slum that had been located at the site.[49] Until the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was built in Hell's Kitchen in the 1980s, the Coliseum was the primary event venue for New York City.[9]:914 By 1985, there were plans to replace the Coliseum,[50] and after a series of delays, the Coliseum was demolished in 2000.[51]

Since 2003, the site has been occupied by Time Warner Center, the world headquarters of the Time Warner corporation.[52]:310[53] The center consists of a pair of 750-foot (230 m) towers 53 stories high.[35][54] The complex also hosts the Shops at Columbus Circle mall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York City studio headquarters of CNN, and the Mandarin Oriental, New York hotel.[9]:1319[35] The mall inside the complex Prestigious restaurants in the center include Landmarc, Per Se and Masa.[55][56] Time Warner also paid for the portion of the new interior circle that directly faces the Time Warner Center.


On the north side of Columbus Circle, bounded by Broadway, Central Park West, and 61st Street,[46] is the Trump International Hotel and Tower, with its noted steel globe, which had been an office tower, the headquarters of the Gulf+Western conglomerate, which was stripped to its steel skeleton and reclad in a new facade.[35][57] The Gulf and Western Building, a 44-story building completed in 1969[52]:351 or 1970,[58] filed for bankruptcy in 1991.[58] In 1994, Donald Trump announced his plans to convert the building into a mixed-purpose hotel and condominium units, with hotel rooms below the 14th floor and condominiums above that floor.[59] Renovations started in 1995 after Gulf and Western's lease lapsed and Trump took control of the building.[60] That renovation was complete by 1997.[9]:288[61]


On the northeast lies the Merchant's Gate to Central Park, dominated by the USS Maine National Monument. The USS Maine monument was designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle and sculpted by Attilio Piccirilli, who did the colossal group and figures, and Charles Keck, who was responsible for the "In Memoriam" plaque. An imposing Beaux-Arts edifice of marble and gilded bronze,[62] it was dedicated in 1913 as a memorial to sailors killed aboard the battleship USS Maine,[63] whose mysterious 1898 explosion in Havana harbor precipitated the Spanish–American War.[62]


Actors' Equity was founded in 1913 in the old Pabst Grand Circle Hotel,[64] located at 2 Columbus Circle on the southern side of the circle.[65] The building was torn down in 1960 in order to construct a distinctive new International Modernist tower designed by architect Edward Durrell Stone to house the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art.[65] Vacant since the city's Department of Cultural Affairs departed in 1998,[65] it was listed as one of the World Monuments Fund's "100 most endangered sites" in 2006.[66] After a renovation by architect Brad Cloepfil, the building became the new home for Museum of Arts and Design in 2008.[52]:310[9]:288, 868[67] Its radical transformation was controversial for the failure of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold hearings on its worthiness for designation.[68][69][70]


240 Central Park South, a balconied moderne apartment building across Broadway from the museum, is on the southeast side of the circle. Built in 1941, it is a city-designated landmark with a new addition, a green roof, atop its retail base.[71]:128

3, 4, 5, and 6 Columbus Circle

U.S. Rubber Headquarters constructed at 1790 Broadway in 1912

3, 4, 5, and 6 Columbus Circle are the numbers given to four buildings on the south side of 58th Street. From east to west, the buildings are numbered 5, 3, 4, and 6 Columbus Circle.[47]

5 Columbus Circle (also known by its address, 1790 Broadway),[72] is a 286-foot (87 m), 20-story tower on the southeast corner of Broadway and 58th Street.[73] It was originally built as the headquarters of the United States Rubber Company (U.S. Rubber) in 1912.[52]:308[74] It was part of Broadway's "Automobile Row" during the early 20th century.[75] U.S. Rubber moved to a new headquarters in 1940, and the building was sold several times before being acquired by the West Side Federal Savings and Loan Association. The First Nationwide Savings Bank, which acquired the West Side Federal Savings bank, sold the building in 1985 to 1790 Broadway Associates, its current owners.[74] The lobby contains part of an under-construction flagship store for Nordstrom, which is planned to open in 2019; the 360,000-square-foot (33,000 m2) store itself would be located under three buildings on the block.[76][77]

Between Eighth Avenue and Broadway on the south side of 58th Street is 3 Columbus Circle (also 1775 Broadway), a 310-foot (94 m), 26-story tower.[78] It is occupied by Young & Rubicam, Bank of America, Chase Bank, and Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co.[79] The tower sits atop a 3-story structure called the Colonnade Building.[80][81] The first 3 stories were built in 1923 and the top 23 stories were added as part of a large expansion in 1927–1928.[52]:307 During the expansion, the original building's three-story Ionic supports were kept.[82][80] The new expansion, designed by Shreve & Lamb,[52]:307 hosted General Motors' headquarters from 1927[75][83] to 1968.[83][84] In 1969, Midtown Realty purchased the building's lease, and in 1980, acquired the land. Half of the building was leased by Bankers Trust until the late 1980s,[83] and Newsweek leased a third of the building from 1994[85] until 2006.[86] When the Moinian Group purchased the building in 2000,[80][87] the building assumed its current name;[80][86] a subsequent renovation refurbished the exterior and removed all remnants of the Colonnade Building.[80] A neon sign for CNN was located on the roof of the building from the mid-2000s to 2015.[84] An annex of Nordstrom for menswear is planned for the base of 3 Columbus Circle.[72]

4 Columbus Circle, an eight-story low-rise located at 989 Eighth Avenue at the southwest corner of the intersection with 58th Street, was built in the late 1980s. Swanke Hayden Connell Architects designed the building, which houses the furniture company Steelcase on the upper floors and a Duane Reade and a Starbucks on the ground floor.[88] Cerberus Capital Management bought the building in 2006 for $82.9 million. In 2011, it was sold to German real estate firm GLL Real Estate Partners for $96.5 million.[89]

Directly to the west is 6 Columbus Circle, an 88-room, 12-floor boutique hotel called 6 Columbus.[90] Acquired by the Pomeranc Group in 2007,[91] the hotel was put on sale in December 2015.[92] A 700-foot-tall (210 m) tower is planned for the site.[93]


The M5, M7, M10, M20 and M104 buses all serve the circle, with the M5, M7, M20 and M104 providing through service and the southbound M10 terminating near the circle.[94] Under the circle is the 59th Street–Columbus Circle subway station (1, ​2​, A, ​B, ​C, and ​D trains).[95]


Columbus Circle, circa 1907

See also



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  • New York City History – Columbus Circle

External links

  • NYC Parks Department - Columbus Circle
  • NYC Parks Department - Columbus Monument
  • NYCDOT traffic cams facing Columbus Circle
  • Smithsonian's Inventory of American Sculpture Entry

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