The memorial to American composer, pianist, and jazz orchestra leader Duke Ellington (1899–1974) is located just beyond the northeast corner of the Park. At a heroic scale, Ellington stands over 10-feet high next to a grand piano on a platform supported by three columns topped with female figures.
The campaign to build a memorial to Ellington in New York City began after his death—and lasted 18 years. Pianist Bobby Short conceived of the project in 1979 as a way to memorialize this legendary musician, who he regarded as his hero. Short did all the fundraising and selected Mexican-born sculptor Robert Graham to create the monument. After a lengthy decision-making process regarding the statue’s placement and controversy over figures of nude women supporting the historic figure, the Ellington memorial was dedicated in 1997.
Ellington is one of four African-American figures honored along Central Park North, along with Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and Frederick Douglass. The area is often referred to as the “Gateway to Harlem.” Ellington is also one of four monuments to musicians in the Park, along with Beethoven, Victor Herbert, and John Lennon.
Also in the area
A History of Monuments in Central Park
Establishing a ‘Gateway to Harlem’: The Creation of Frederick Douglass Circle
While Frederick Douglass is an integral figure in American history, it took time for the eight-foot bronze sculpture and accompanying renovation of the area to come about.
Tags: Conservancy Staff / Park Design / Monuments / History