The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, the first hall of fame in the United States, is a historical landmark on the Bronx Community College campus. Designed by Stanford White when the site housed New York University’s uptown campus, the monument is a 630-foot open-air colonnade with busts of 98 honorees, which wraps behind three other White other buildings. It was dedicated in 1901. Honorees had to be American citizens who had “distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, sciences and other pursuits directed toward the betterment of mankind.” When the NYU Chancellor Henry MacCracken first spelled out the qualifications for election in 1900, honorees had to have been dead for ten years; in 1925, the requirement was changed to twenty-five. Electors came from every state, with elections held every five years. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, there was intense lobbying by organizations ranging from the American Bar Association to the United Daughters of the Confederacy leading up to the elections, which attracted national attention. The hall became a touchstone in American popular culture. Mickey Rooney walks among the busts in the film Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940), and, in The Wizard of Oz (1939), the munchkins sing to Dorothy, “You’ll be hist, you’ll be hist, you’ll be history, and we will glorify your name. You will be a bust, be a bust, be a bust in The Hall of Fame.” The City of New York purchased the campus from NYU in 1973 to house Bronx Community College, and BCC entered into a joint arrangement with NYU to maintain the hall. NYU promised to contribute $125,000 annually to its upkeep, but stopped funding the hall by 1977. The last election took place in 1976; busts of the last four honorees elected have never been installed
(History adapted from Culkin, Kate. “A Bridge, Not a Wall: Uses of The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College.” In Remaking the American College Campus, edited by Jonathan Silverman and Meghan McSweeney. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016.)
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