Outdoor Public Art - Table of
Columbus Park, Porter Avenue, Buffalo, NY - REMOVED July 10, 2020
Buffalo’s Statue of Christopher Columbus of Prospect Park
By Martha Neri
Explore Buffalo, "The Compass" Newsletter, October 2020
In 1952 sculptor Giovanni Polizzi was commissioned by the Federation of Italian-American Societies to create a monument to Christopher Columbus that would be donated to the City of Buffalo.
A small park was created on an empty triangular site bounded by Niagara, Eagle and Franklin Streets in downtown Buffalo. Due to the Urban Renewal projects that began in 1969 the reconfiguration of the streets caused the park to decrease in size.
The monument was then moved to the western section of Prospect Park near Porter and Niagara Streets. Most recently [July 10, 2020] the statue was moved to storage following many acts of vandalism.
Christopher Columbus, born in Genoa Italy, was the first European to complete round trip voyages by sailing west from Spain, in the Old World, to the islands in the New World. He wanted a shortcut to the vast riches found in Asia by sailing west not east around Africa. He planned to set up trading posts in the New World.
Columbus was considered a hero and statues of him became popular after the Civil War hoping to bring civic unity between all the groups in our country and his name would be a symbol of a new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. Keep in mind that Columbus’ journals and other historical information were not widely available in the mid-19th century.
Many Italian immigrants moved to Buffalo with about 14,000 arriving between 1880 and 1890. Some Sicilian Italians moved in to the Lower West Side, near Virginia and Niagara Streets. Some Italian business owners, lawyers and doctors moved to the area around Front Park. Large banners were flown in their neighborhoods when the quadricentennial of Columbus' arrival in the New World was celebrated here in 1892.
On October 12 1909 a new holiday observance was begun in Buffalo. All city and county offices were closed for the day. A Columbus Day Parade was held that started at Niagara Square with 5,000 people marching along. Luncheons, parades, placing a wreath at the statue and other festivities continued into the 1980s.
In 1969 due to the urban renewal plans for downtown it was suggested that the statue of Columbus be moved to Prospect Park.
Prospect Park, the last public location of the statue of Columbus, is composed of two small blocks that straddle an old trail that became known as Niagara Street. Local businessman Hiram Pratt donated the two lots in 1836. The park is one of the oldest public spaces in Buffalo. It was a popular location due to its high elevation and unrestricted view of Lake Erie. In 1870 the city incorporated these two lots under the authority of the new Buffalo Parks Commission that was overseeing construction of the Olmsted-designed park system.
The Buffalo Common Council proposed that this section of the park be named “Columbus Park.” It was voted on and approved in December 1973. The parks commissioner was responsible for creating new signs.
By the beginning of the 21st century the times had changed and there was little interest in celebrating this holiday. It was also thought that any reference to Christopher Columbus was thought to be inappropriate and insensitive because the discoverer of the New World had led a less that honorable life. Graffiti and vandalism of the statue became common. In the summer of 2020 the Federation of Italian American Societies, owner of the statue, decided to remove the statue for
The statue is now [October 2020] in storage its whereabouts are unknown.
Columbus Day become a federal holiday in1937
Unveiled October 12, 1952