A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 16, 2005
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
New York City has a Hall of Fame, the first one in the country. It's the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, opened in 1901, on the campus of what is now Bronx Community College.

Few people visit the Hall of Fame today. It's far from Manhattan's tourist sites. The past 25 years have seen little activity at the Hall of Fame, although plans have been made to improve it.

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans was the vision of then New York University chancellor Henry Mitchell MacCracken. It is often thought that he had coined the term "hall of fame," but a hall of fame had existed in Bavaria (Germany) for many years.


(Oxford English Dictionary)
Hall of Fame
orig. and chiefly U.S.
1. A place where famous persons are commemorated, as the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in New York City or the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, New York State. U.S.
1901 Land of Sunshine Jan. 61 The Columbia College 'Hall of Fame' includes various more or less useful Americans and excludes Edgar Allan Poe.
1913 W. P. EATON Barn Doors & Byways 122 Only a year or two ago a red fox was seen in New York City,..on the wooded hillside sloping toward the Harlem River at University Heights near the Hall of Fame..
1957 Encycl. Brit. III. 166E/2 On June 12, 1939, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was dedicated at Cooperstown, N.Y. Ibid. XI. 106B/2 The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is a semicircular granite colonnade on the campus of New York university... It was established in 1900..and was dedicated in 1901.
2. transf. and fig.
1903 H. HAPGOOD Autobiogr. Thief xii. 265 Whenever I square it and go to work I am nailed, because my mug is in the Hall of Fame.

Bronx Community College -- Hall of Fame for Great Americans
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College, the original "Hall of Fame" in this country, is a New York landmark institution founded in 1900 to honor prominent Americans who have had a significant impact on this nation's history. The Hall of Fame was originated by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University from 1891 to 1910, and was designed as part of the construction of an undergraduate college of that university.

Built in a sweeping semicircular Neo-Classical arc with wings at either end, it provides a panorama across the Harlem River to the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park and beyond to the Palisades. It is a unique and patriotic reminder that this country's phenomenal growth has been due to the vitality, ingenuity, and intellect of these individuals.

The principal feature of the Hall of Fame is its 630-foot open-air Colonnade, which houses the bronze portrait busts of the honorees. Designed by the celebrated architect Stanford White and financed by a gift from Mrs. Finley J. Shepard (Helen Gould) to New York University, the Hall of Fame was formally dedicated on May 30, 1901.

19 July 1869, New York (NY) Times, pg. 1:
...but the most prominent and elaborate of all these memorials is the Bavarian Hall of Fame, which is built on a bank rising from the flat plain, some little distance outside the city.

29 August 1886, New York (NY) Times, pg. 4:
A new statue of Frederick II. has been produced by Prof. Eucke, for the celebrated Hall of Fame in the old Arsenal of Berlin.

1 April 1895, New York (NY) Times, pg. 7:
In the Halls of Fame.
From the Chicago Record.
Napoleon (bracing himself to keep his place on the pedestal) - Stop that! Who's pushing me?

The Goddess of Fame - Shut up and move over! It's Bismarck.

6 March 1900, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 4:
"Hall of Fame for Great Americans."
The country at large and New York City are to have a "Hall of Fame for Great Americans," a splendid structure, that will rear itself high above the Hudson. The council of the New York University met today, and formally announced and accepted a gift of $100,000. This money is to be used to build the "Hall of Fame" on University Heights, a colonnade 500 feet long, which will look towards the Palisades and the valleys of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.

Chancellor of the University MacCracken said today he was not at liberty to tell the name of the American who makes this gift or to describe him further than that he is a citizen of New York, and a friend of the university.

The conditions of the gift, readily accepted by the University Council, are directed to make sure that none but the names of truly great Americans shall be inscribed in the "Hall of Fame."

25 November 2001, New York (NY) Times, pg. CY2:
The Original Hall of Fame
Tries to Get Back on Its Feet
(...)
Many are surprised when they first set foot in the nation's first hall of fame - at University Avenue and West 181st Street - which is marking its centennial year. And now, plans are under way to expand it.

The Hall of Fame has fallen out of public view in the last 25 years. The last election, in which a board of 100 distinguished electors chose from candidates nominated by the public, was held in 1976. The last installation of a bust was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's in 1992, a ceremony 19 years in the making.
(...)
The Hall of Fame was the vision of Harold McCracken (Corrected later by the Times to "Henry Mitchell MacCracken" - ed.), a chancellor of New York University who sought to build a pantheon of great Americans on what was then N.Y.U.'s uptown campus. When the Hall of Fame opened in 1901, there were 29 inductees, including George Washington, the first and only unanimously elected member.
(...)
After N.Y.U. sold the campus to the state in 1973, Bronx Community College moved onto the property and assumed stewardship of the Hall of Fame.
(...)
Since Mr. McCracken coined the term hall of fame, it has inspired dozens of others.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBuildings/Housing/Parks • Wednesday, March 16, 2005 • Permalink