Friday, May 8, 2015

John Purroy Mitchel,the 'boy mayor' of New York

John Purroy Mitchel is  known to generations of joggers as the Mayor with the elaborate gilt monument at the stairway leading to the reservoir in Central Park.
The monument is part of the Engineers' Gate to Central Park, at the 90th Street entrance. There is a   neo-classical stone wall and staircase that leads to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis  Reservoir above.
 
John Purroy Mitchel was  the 95th mayor of New York. He was the second youngest  elected mayor. He was a grandson of an writer and leader in the Irish independence movement. John  graduated New York Law School in 1901.  He tried to break  corruption and his investigations ended the careers of Manhattan Borough President, and Bronx Borough President  when he was 29.  John became a Mayor at the age of 35 in 1913.
He won his election with the greatest victory margin in New

 York City history and took steps to clean up the corrupt New York Police Department.    Purroy Mitchel is credited with drafting the city’s first comprehensive budget, with a full accounting of all  of the city’s resources.
During his single term as a mayor   Mitchel cut waste, improved accounting practices, and worked to professionalize the city's civil service by standardizing salaries and work guidelines for municipal employees.  Despite Mitchel's notable accomplishments, he lost his re-election bid in 1917. On July 6, 1918 while flying a training flight in his single-seater scout airplane at Gerstner Field in Louisiana he did not strap on his seatbelt and fell 500 feet to his death.
Memorial was dedicated  in 1928. German-born sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman designed the gilded bronze portrait bust of Mitchel.
Weinman is  best remembered as the designer of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, a silver 50-cent piece or half dollar coin issued by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1947.

Weinman was one of many sculptors and artists who employed American artist's model and film actress Audrey Munson , known   as "Miss Manhattan" and  "American Venus"  as a model.  He is the author of the golden figure on the top of the Municipal Building,  the Civic Fame, the second-largest sculpture in New- York after Statue of Liberty. You can read more about Audrey Munson and  the Municipal Building in one of my posts.
The pair of flagpoles with massive bases outside the front entrance to New York Public Library on East 42 , also dedicated to the mayor. The bases   were first installed when the library was under construction in 1911.
The metal flagpoles were installed in 1941, replacing earlier wooden poles, and were dedicated to Mitchel. Two plaques, commemorating both his service as mayor and his shortened wartime aviation career, were set in the sidewalk under one of the poles.
An air force base in Long Island, now the site of Hofstra University and the Nassau Coliseum, was named in Mitchel’s honor.