The year 1909 was rapidly approaching. There was great excitement and preparation in New York City to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first European in what was to become New York Harbor, Henry Hudson in 1609. But Italians in New York knew better. They knew that it was not Hudson who first entered the harbor but an Italian, Giovanni da Verrazzano (c. 1485-1528) commanding the French ship La Dauphine, who had arrived 85 years earlier in 1524. It was Verrazzano’s maps that assisted the explorers of the area, including Henry Hudson. Verrazzano named the area New Angouleme which is the original European name for New York. It was later named New Amsterdam by the Dutch and in 1624 New York by the British.
Within the Italian community, the most influential publication was the Italian language newspaper Il Progresso. The editor, Carlo Barsotti, along with many others believed that the claim could not go unchallenged and created a campaign to raise funds for the construction of a magnificent bronze statue in honor of Verrazzano. The famous Italian Sculptor Ettore Ximenes (1855–1926) designed the monument. It was dedicated on October 9, 1909, amidst the Henry Hudson celebrations. A magnificent sculpture of Verrazzano sites atop of broad granite pedestal. Below Verrazzano is a beautifully rendered female figure bearing a torch, represent Discovery.
Statue in 1909 Page 61 from Four Centuries of Italian American Histsory by Giovanni Schiavo New York Vigo Press 1952
1909 Verrazano Medal
The monument was placed in Battery Park New York overlooking the mouth of the river named after Henry Hudson, immortalizing his name but leaving the name the first European to sail up that river in obscurity. There it remained through the decades amidst many changes in New York. During the depression, it was damaged by homeless people building fires next to it to keep warm during the cold winters. Also during that time, the torch in the hand of the image of a woman who represented “Discovery” was removed. And then, in the early 1940’s the statue was removed from its location to enable the construction of the Brooklyn- Battery Tunnel.
It would have languished in storage and obscurity indefinitely if it were not for John N. LaCorte, who like Barsotti was passionate about having Verrazzano properly recognized. He campaigned tirelessly to have the statue placed near its original location. As a result of LaCorte’s efforts, the statue was returned to Battery Park in 1952 with some modifications, especially to its base.
The statue would be once more removed from its location in Battery Park, however, this time it would not be left in storage and obscurity. The New York Parks department undertook a major reorganization the Battery which assembles several monuments in one area. With the dedicated efforts of Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Arts and Antiquities for the New York City Parks Department, the Verrazzano monument now stands, fully renovated and virtually in its original form, including the long lost torch in the left hand of Discovery, along with several other great works of art that are part of the rich heritage of the City of New York. The Italian Historical Society of America is deeply grateful to Jonathan Kuhn for all his efforts that have succeeded in returning the Verrazzano Monument to its full glory very near its original location.
Verrazzano Monument Now