Columbus Statue Coming Down, Circle Being Renamed in Syracuse
The Columbus Statue is coming down in Syracuse and city officials are working to rename Columbus Circle.
Decades of controversy and calls for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Syracuse has led to the removal of the Columbus statue. the heads of Indigenous peoples of the Plains and the bas relief plaques. All will be moved to a private site. Continuing a tradition in place for nearly 90 years, Mayor Walsh said Italian Americans will remain the focus of honor of the fountain and obelisk monument at the center of the Circle.
Walsh is proposing adding historical informatio at the Circle regarding the impacts of colonialism, recognizing the Onondaga Nation, one of the oldest continuous democratic governments in the world and on whose ancestral land the City of Syracuse sits. The Mayor called for the site to highlight the contributions of others who have and are experiencing oppression, including Black and Brown Americans, Italians and other immigrants to America and, more recently, New Americans.
“This space should be both a tribute to Italian Americans and a place of healing at which we celebrate our shared accomplishments,” said Mayor Walsh. “This decision is based on the fact that we can honor our Italian American community without focusing on a statue that has become the source of division over decades and overshadowed the original intent of the monument.”
Plans need to be reviewed and approved by the Syracuse Public Art Commission and the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board. Because the Circle is part of an historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places, review by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of modifications will also be required.
Walsh will appoint a commission to begin the process of designing the specific changes that will occur at the Circle, including the name of the site. Walsh said he expects the process to unfold in the coming months. He said the City will use a combination of private dollars and public funds designated for maintenance and capital improvement.
“Interfaith Works and 25 volunteers representing a diverse spectrum of stakeholders accepted my request to participate on the Action Committee. They worked over the past eight weeks in a process that was, at times, challenging and emotional,” said Mayor Walsh. “I deeply appreciate the contributions of the Action Committee. I did not expect the group to reach a single recommendation, but I did want a process that would inform my decision and that would ensure the voices of many stakeholders were heard. I also want to acknowledge all those who participated in the three prior Dialogue Circles on this difficult issue.”
Columbus Circle has been through several changes over the years. Plans from the late 1800s show the Circle drawn as a triangle. In 1895, the Syracuse Common Council officially designated the site as Library Circle. The name was changed in 1901 to St. Mary’s Circle, its official name today. It became known as Columbus Circle after the addition of of the Columbus monument in 1934.