Firemen’s Memorial at 100th and Riverside Being Restored Thanks to an Anonymous Donor

The Firemen’s Memorial.

By Michael McDowell

It often seems that entropy prevails in New York City, and nowhere is its triumph more visible than on the wizened faces and slumped lines of the city’s many monuments. At 100th Street and Riverside Drive, however, the Riverside Park Conservancy is fighting back against disorder and decay, and funding the restoration of one of the Upper West Side’s prettiest monuments: the Firemen’s Memorial.

The Firemen’s Memorial is dedicated to those who “died at the call of duty, soldiers in a war that never ends.” Devastating fires were—and are—a reality of urban life, and while the horrific fires which in part motivated the construction of the memorial in the first place have faded into the past, the events of 9/11 renewed the respect accorded to the fallen heroes of New York City’s Fire Department.

It was once the most deteriorated monument in Riverside Park.

“We wanted to get this work done in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” explained Riverside Park Conservancy head Dan Garodnick. “The work began in October, and they’re nearly done with the first phase–the repointing of the joints [which stabilize the monument] and the cleaning of the bronze plaque and statues. In the spring of 2022, phase two will include more masonry work and touch-ups on the stairs.”

It’s all thanks to an anonymous donor, who contributed $50,000 to the Conservancy to support the equipment necessary for the work, which is being performed by the New York City Parks Department.

The slow and meticulous effort to restore a single piece of NYC.

In fact, this is not the first time the Firemen’s Memorial, which was dedicated in 1913, has been restored, and some West Siders may remember a time when the Memorial “lay in pieces.” Back then, in the early 1990s, it was the “most deteriorated monument in Riverside Park.” In far better shape today, the Memorial is the site of well-attended annual 9/11 services.

Situated amidst a green strip of Riverside Park and encircled by Riverside Drive on both sides, the Memorial is composed of a large terrace, at the center of which is the monument itself, a “sarcophagus-like structure” with an enormous bronze relief. On the Park-facing front of the Memorial, a working fountain spouts water, which fills a basin in warmer months.

The Rag observed the Parks crew at work, and considered the slow and meticulous effort required to restore one single piece of New York to its meaningful magnificence.

It takes an awful lot to keep this place running, but, in the end, it’s worth it.

Dedicated to the horses that once pulled the fire department’s engines. 

HISTORY, NEWS, OUTDOORS | 17 comments | permalink
    1. NYYgirl says:

      Wonderful donor! Thank you <3

    2. Lizzie says:

      So glad this is happening. But a plea to dog owners: please don’t let your dogs pee on the monument! Not only does it damage the stone, it’s also disrespectful to the memory of the firefighters being honored.

      • robert dowling says:

        thanks to the donor of course. glad to see the memorial has a separate plaque to the fire horses of long ago – deserve the praise as far as i know otherwise were never or hardly acknowledged. as someone said dog walkera repectthe monument for the fire fighters and also that it ack a member of their/mother natures world.

    3. Carrie says:

      Whoever you are, thank you. This is a blessing to the community.

    4. Danielle Remp says:

      Unfortunately, the announcement coincides with the news that some 2,300 firefighters called in sick yesterday when the covid vaccine mandate took effect.

    5. SB says:

      This is good news! Why on earth did it take a private donation of $50,000 to do this, though? The city couldn’t afford to respect our boys in red?

    6. susan says:

      I want to thank the donor, & also everyone who is organizing & doing the work. The Firemen’s Memorial meant a great deal to me after September 11. I used to walk up almost every day to see the big display of drawings & other mementos & flowers. I took quite a few photos of the heartfelt display.
      I’m so happy that this job is being done.

    7. Steevie says:

      Can anyone explain the last line of the plaque in the picture? “….BORE ON HERESCUE”???

      • Terry says:

        I think it’s “THE RESCUE.”

      • Lizzie says:

        All the capital Ts are smushed into the other letters and the crossbar rides over the top of the letters. It’s odd typography, to be sure.

        So it actually says:
        AND WITH MIGHTY SPEED BORE ON THE RESCUE

    8. jimbo says:

      BORE ON THE RESCUE

      • Steevie says:

        Thanks for that explanation. The sculptor made the spacing tighter and tighter as he got to the bottom of the plaque. Finally on the bottom line he had the make the “T” and the “H” share the vertical stroke. I bet the sculptor spent many hours trying to make it all fit.

    9. WombatNYC says:

      Perhaps is was Monty Brewster who made the donation?

    10. Marilyn says:

      Let’s hope they also fix the fountain which has been leaking for years. I’ve told the fire dept this a few years when they try sprucing things up bef their October memorial and the now smaller 9/11 memorials. They kept it in great condition before the downtown 9/11 memorial was completed. Kind of pathetic. Oh, given these idiots don’t want to be vaccinated (and never wore masks) maybe we need to rededicate to people who actually care about the safety of others.

      • Steevie says:

        Marilyn: If your home is on fire and you are trapped they will come for you even at the risk of their own lives.

    11. Caitlin says:

      And not one, but two statues of Audrey Munson as “Sacrifice” and “Duty” sculpted by Attilo Piccirill on the north and south ends of the monument. https://www.w102-103blockassn.org/blog/that-face-that-face-that-marvelous-face