7 Walks in 7 Days: A Park Filled With Beauty and Melancholy

By Marjorie Cohen

The sixth in our 7 Walks in 7 Days around the Upper West Side will take you to a statue in a small park.

Straus Park, triangle at intersection of Broadway and West End Avenue at 106th Street

This lovely little park, tended carefully by the nonprofit Friends of Straus Park, was named for Ida and Isidore Straus, an early twentieth century power couple. The Strauses owned a country house on the land where 924 West End Avenue now stands. Their “city” house was on West 72nd Street.

Straus was co-owner, with his brother, of R.H. Macy and Abraham and Straus. The New York Times called call him “a supporter of almost every philanthropic and charitable institution in New York, regardless of creed.” Ida and Isidore were on the Titanic when it sank in 1912.

The couple’s sad story is one of incredible marital devotion. Here is how Tom Miller tells it:

On April 19, 1912, just four days after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Alfred Crawford testified before the United States Senate committee investigating the disaster. Crawford had been a stateroom steward on the doomed ship.

Chester testified that he was in a lifeboat and took Mrs. Straus’ hand to help her in. “She started to get in, but then changed her mind and went back.”

Senator Smith asked “Started to get in?”

“Yes, she had one foot on the gunwale and then drew back,” said Chester.

Ida Straus looked back to her husband of 41 years standing on the deck and let go of Chester’s hand. “We have been together a number of years,’ she said to her husband. ‘Where you will go I will go.”

She then instructed her maid to take her place on the lifeboat.

Later, as the aged couple sat quietly on deck chairs holding hands, the grand RMS Titanic slipped beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The statue of Memory, which Chistopher Gray called “exquisite in its understatement,” honors this unique couple. At the base of the statue, a plaque reads: “In their death they were not divided.”

COLUMNS | 9 comments | permalink
    1. Cynthia Meyers says:

      The model for the sculpture is Audrey Munson, who also appears in works at Columbus Circle, the Municipal Building, etc

    2. Ququi says:

      The model for “Memory” was a young woman named Audrey Munson, who was a muse to many sculptors of NYC monuments around town. You can see 2 images of her flanking the little known Fireman’s Memorial on Riverside Drive & 100th. She looks quite different there. For more on Audrey, check out ” The Curse of Beauty” by James Bone.
      One of my tasks in quarantine has been to visit all the Audreys around town.

    3. Marjorie Cohen says:

      For more about the fascinating Audrey Munson, take a look at this post written for the West Side Rag 9 years ago. https://www.westsiderag.com/2011/12/16/upper-west-side-history-the-rise-and-tragic-fall-of-the-model-who-broke-the-rules

    4. Pintele Yid says:

      “In their death they were not divided,” the quotation on the plaque, is from David’s lament over the fall of Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:23

    5. It’s wonderful that people take such good care of this very special garden. One such has posted his work throughout the coronavirus lockdown, which has brought many of us great vicarious pleasure. He rightfully takes pride in making the dedicated space beautiful in every season. Ida and Isidore Straus would be touched and delighted, I’m sure.

    6. Carolyn Foote Edelmann says:

      This is as evocative as the St. Gaudens’ ‘Grief’ statue in Rock Brook Park in Washington, D.C., done to evoke memory of Clover Adams. It was to this statue that Eleanor Roosevelt ‘repaired’ in her own numerous griefs, early on in her public life. The story of the Straus couple is inspiring, and I am glad to be reminded of it newly, and with such grace. Carolyn Edelmann, Lawrenceville NJ.

    7. Joseph Arbo says:

      As the Gardener these past seven years, for Friends of Straus Park, I take pride in using the gardens as a place of Sanctuary. During this COVID Virus many more people have come to the park these past three months. I planted the center garden flowering hearts, in memory of those lost to Covid-19 and to the Essential Workers. The love that Ida and Isidore had for each other, represents the separation from their family, as many with COVID have endured without being able to say goodbye. I hope you enjoy the other two hearts planted elsewhere in the gardens. Stop by and say hi, I am there 7 days/week unless it’s raining. Thank you all for the compliments.

    8. Brewer Shettles says:

      A very nice park. Sad tragedy. Amazing people who maintain this Park and keep it going!!