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Pratt sculpture resides at
the Huntington Free Library
The Hispanic Society of America provided this photograph of the bronze relief that graces
their Washington Heights premise. An exact copy is also found at the Huntington Free Library,
but the darkened patina makes it diffi cult to make out details in a photograph. Both
sculptures are signed by Pratt.
The Huntington Free Library at 9
Westchester Square is like a museum.
Even the material that it is constructed
of seems to be born of antiquity.
Created by famed architect Frederick
C. Withers, the same person who
along with Calvert Vaux designed the
Jefferson Market Courthouse on Sixth
Avenue at 10th Street in Greenwich Village
which was much later taken over
by the New York City Public Library,
still attracts many tourists as well it
should for its overall beauty both inside
The Huntington Free Library, too,
has been toured by many who admire
the work of the architect. His personality
seems steeped in its rugged stone
walls and arched rib ceiling.
Walking into the building is like
stepping back in time and the fi rst
thing that attracts one’s attention is
the bronze relief of Collis P. Huntington,
the library founder. Sculpted by B.
L. Pratt in 1911, it was a later addition
to this wonderful old building, but one
that sets the tone for visitors by advising
them of the structure’s genesis.
It is actually one of two such sculptures.
The other adorns a wall at the
Hispanic Society of America, an organization
established by Collis P. Huntington’s
step-son, Archer Milton Huntington,
in 1904. It is located at Audubon
Terrace off 155th Street and Broadway
in Washington Heights and is home to
a vast array of art work and books attracting
visitors from around the globe.
The reliefs are both the same size: 105.5
centimeters high and 74.2 centimeters
wide, and bear the inscription on the
bottom: “This building is dedicated
to the memory of Collis Potter Huntington”
in bold lettering and both are
signed by the artist.
The one at the Huntington Free Library
holds a special place of honor as it
is just inside the front door and can’t be
missed when entering the building.
The library attracts numerous visitors
as it also offers a host of research
material on the history of the Bronx and
displays numerous other works of art
by noted artists such as an 1893 portrait
of Collis Potter Huntington painted by
William Edgar Marshall, a leading portrait
artist of the day. Other Marshall
works at the library include rare early
prints of his engravings of presidents
Washington and Lincoln.
Bela Lyon Pratt (1867-1917) was born
in Norwich, Connecticut and educated
at Yale University after which he attended
Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Upon returning to America, he went
to work for Augustus Saint Gaudens
creating a number of museum quality
pieces along with sculptures for the
1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in
That same year he became the professor
of sculpture at the Boston Museum
School of Fine Art, a position he
held until his death 20 years later. Numismatists
know him as the designer of
the two and a half and fi ve dollar gold
coins in 1908 that were once so popular
in America and still hold a place of special
interest to that group due to their
His sculptures can be found
throughout the nation and his portrayal
of Nathan Hale from 1914 seems
to be among his most popular. It is located
at Yale University and a copy is at
the CIA. A good number of his works
can be found at the Museum of Fine
Arts in Boston but before traveling to
fi nd some outstanding examples of his
sculptures, why not stop by the Huntington
Free Library at 9 Westchester
Square right here in the Bronx and
examine his bronze relief of Collis P.
REPRINTED FROM 4-21-2011