A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from May 25, 2005
Civic Virtue (Big Boy, Fat Boy, Rough Guy)
"Civic Virtue" is not to be confused with "Civic Fame" (the statue, modeled by Audrey Munson, on top of the Municipal Building). "Civic Fame" debuted in 1922 in front of City Hall in City Hall Park. People hated it!

They called it "big boy" and "fat boy" and "rough guy" and "tough guy." In 1941, the statue was banished to Queens, where it is today.

Statue of Civic Virtue

This landmark was designed by Frederick MacMonnies and sculpted by the Piccirilli Brothers (Ferrucio, Attilio, Furio, Horatio, Masanielo and Getulio) of the Bronx. (Attilio and Furio also sculpted Daniel Chester French's statute of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial and the Lions in front of the New York Public Library.) Civic Virtue stood in front of City Hall [see the 1923 picture] until Mayor La Guardia decided he was sick of being mooned by it everytime he left the office. In 1941, La Guardia finally thought of a way to get rid of the thing. He made a gift of the statue to Queens County in honor of the opening of its new Borough Hall. Civic Virtue was moved to the park next to Borough Hall where it has remained since.

Long Island Daily Star, October 1941

[With a sly twinkle in the eye, the Star-Journal reports on Borough Hall's taste in artwork.] Promptly at 4 PM, 'Fat Boy' is given to the Borough of Queens by Newbold Morris, President of New York City Council. Officially, 'Civic Virtue', but popularly called, 'Fat Boy', the monument depicts a muscle man towering majestically overhead. Unfortunately, MacMonnies, the sculptor, carved it with the hero trampling a woman underfoot. A marble foot crushes her neck. Banished from City Hall Park, the city places it in front of Queens Borough Hall with official blessing but without general public approval. It is given with Manhattan's complements. The statue is dedicated at the long-awaited(?) ceremony. Does anyone care? What arrangements have been made for handling the crowds(?) Borough President Harvey does not state the plans(?) in the announcement. About 120 people, mostly Borough hall employees, are on hand for the dedication.

26 February 1922, New York Times, pg. 19:
Civic Virtue Statue, a Youth With a Club,
Soon to Menace Sirens in City Hall

The statue Civic Virtue has been completed by Frederick Macmonnies, the sculptor, and in a few days will be packed and crated and sent from a Bronx studio to City Hall Park, where it will be erected soon. The Art Commission will dedicate it early in March.

The statue will face the City Hall. It is the figure of a youth carrying a huge club. This youth represents Civic Virtue. He is beseiged by two alluring sirens, but is represented as triumphing over their wiles.

"It represents Virtue rising or overcoming temptation," says the sculptor, "and is the modern interpretation of the idea formerly expressed in the figures of St. Michael, St. George and the Dragon, and also David and Goliath."

Surrounding the statue will be a fountain basin, with four dolphins spouting water into it from the circumference. "There will be plenty of water in the basin," the sculptor says, "so that the small boys can bathe during the Summer months in the sweltering city."

The statue is the largest ever designed by an AMerican sculptor and is said to have been made from the largest single block of marble carved since the days of Michael Angelo's figure of David.

16 March 1922, New York Times, pg. 13:

Hylan Provides Open Meeting
for Those Protesting Proposed
MacMonnies Group

22 November 1925, New York Times, pg. 28:

Sculptor Reconciled to "The
Rough Guy" as Substitute
for "Civic Virtue."

Before sailing yesterday for Liverpool on the Cunarder Franconia for a six weeks' holiday, Frederick MacMonnies, the sculptor, said that he had himself begun to think of his statue in City Hall Park, "Civic Virtue," as "The Rough Guy," the name bestowed upon it by newspaper men.

"At first I was indignant," the sculptor said, "but now I accept it as something strangely New York. To call my statue 'The Rough Guy' is as much a thing intrinsically New York as the political songs which elect our Mayors, and the night signs which flare out a peculiar message of beauty typical of New York alone.

11 July 1932, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 6:

New York, July 10. - [Special.] - Civic virtue in the vicinity of city hall is again the subject of acrimonious debate. This time the discussion concerns a marble statue instead of the behavior of the city fathers and to date no Samuel Seabury has been called upon to unearth evidence against "the big boy." He has damned himself.

26 February 1935, Washington Post, pg. 9:
NEW YORK'S most pressing problem at the moment is what to do with The Rough Guy. Mayor LaGuardia says he's got to go. Park Commissioner Moses says he's got to go. But the question is, "Where?" Ever since Frederick MacMonnies' heroic statue of "Civic Virtue" reared its curly marble head in City Hall Park in 1922 it has been the sort of civic center for public quarrels. It was immediately schristened The Rough Guy by irreverent reporters and almost as promptly assailed as an insult to womanhood by a group of feminine protesters from Brooklyn.

20 January 1939, New York Times, pg. 16:
"'Civic Virtue' is good - as a parody."

29 May 1941, New York Times, pg. 21:

Statue to Make Journey From
City Hall Park to Queens.

30 July 1961, New York Times, letters, pg. SM2:
Robert Moses, in his article "Mr. Moses Examines 'Conflict of Interest'" {July 23]. evokes memories of New York's most cussed and discussed pieces of statuary when he refers to the heroic statue of "Civic Virtue," better known to the masses as the "Fat Boy" or the "Tough Guy," which once stood heroically in City Hall Park.

Posted by Barry Popik
Art/Sculpture • Wednesday, May 25, 2005 • Permalink

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