Johann C.F. von Schiller
The monument to the German poet Johann C.F. von Schiller (1795–1805) was the first monument to be added to Central Park. Originally installed in the Ramble, it was moved to its current location near the Mall in the 1950s.
The design of Central Park was an intentional break from historic and European park styles, reflecting its purpose to provide New Yorkers with a rural retreat from urban life. But for some members of the public, 19th-century European parks, many of which were filled with monuments to historical figures, still provided a precedent. Recently established German Americans seeking to emulate the old-world model persuaded the Park’s administrators to place a monument to Friedrich Schiller, one of their cultural icons, in the Park. Funds for the monument were collected through newspaper advertisements and from social clubs. The bust was created by the Prussian sculptor Charles Ludwig Richter. The monument to Schiller was one of several donated by groups of European immigrants who sought to see themselves represented in the City’s premier public space, to signal their inclusion in American life.
When the monument was dedicated in 1859, the Park was still far from completion. The location for the monument, the Ramble, was one of the few areas completed, but was also chosen because much of Schiller’s poetry was about nature.
In 1954, Schiller was moved to the northern end of the Mall, near the area known as the Concert Ground. Its location near the bust of Beethoven and Naumburg Bandshell was fitting in part because Beethoven used Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” in the chorale finale of his Ninth Symphony.