What’s to become of the Great Hall of Fame?

When a figure entered the Hall of Fame, a bust was created in his or her likeness and displayed in the collonnade.

When NYU sold the Heights campus to CUNY, many Hall of Fame electors expressed concern over the future of the institution and  anger over what they perceived as NYU’s abandonment of the site. James Hester, President of NYU from 1962-1975, tried to find a way to appease those devoted to the Hall of Fame, while focusing on NYU’s transition of the University College of Arts and Science from University Heights to Washington Square College. At one point the president suggested moving the busts to Washington Square Park, but his proposal was met with opposition. Robert Abrams, the Bronx Borough president at the time, disapproved because he believed the Hall of Fame to be a Bronx institution that should remain in that neighborhood.

In response to moving the Hall downtown, Moses wrote Hester stating, “you are taking a hell of a responsibility if you smash up the Hall of Fame. I doubt you are adding to the laurels of NYU.” Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.

Famed urban planner, Robert Moses, became particularly vocal about the future of the Hall of Fame believing that abandoning the place, would be abandoning the noble idea of the institution. Moses tried to rally support for the Hall by writing the electors and urging them to meet and work to preserve the shrine, suggesting that BCC and NYU would allow it to fall into ruin.

Kibbee wrote Moses directly to emphasize CUNY's support of the Hall of Fame

In response to a number of memos sent to electors, both Hester and the chancellor of CUNY, Robert J. Kibbee, expressed outrage over Moses accusations that they would neglect the site.

Artist’s rendering of the Hall of Fame at the Bronx Zoo.

Other suggestions included moving the busts to the Smithsonian Musuem or Metropolitan Museum of Art and then moving the colonnade to the Bronx Zoo. Another plan involved turning the Gould Memorial Library into a Bronx Cultural Center and keeping the surrounding hall in tact. None of these plans came to fruition though, and eventually BCC and NYU agreed to split the cost of running the Hall of Fame from 1973-1976. After the deal ended, Bronx Community College became the sole steward of the site and NYU has no connection to the hall today.

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