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When New York Snubbed Mary Poppins

Published on Jan 16, 2012

If things had turned out differently 45 years ago, Mark Bransdon might have been looking at a life-size statue of Mary Poppins in Central Park, a few steps from the familiar statues of Hans Christian Andersen and Alice, of “Alice in Wonderland.” Mark is the editor of Southern Highland News in Bowral, Australia, where people are campaigning to right the great 1966 Mary Poppins snub. And since Central Park is still off limits — “No new statues in Central Park,” Adrian Benepe, the commissioner of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, declared last week — they have their eye on a park in Bowral. For that is where P.L. Travers, the author who created Mary Poppins, lived for several years starting around 1910.

On the editorial page, The Times called the statue “atrociously bad art” and said it could not “be rationalized by the fact that two other very bad statues already exist near by” — the Alice and Andersen statues. And so Mary Poppins never joined them.

This sketch, which appeared in The New York Times in 1966, was of a life-sized statue of Mary Poppins that was to be sculptured for Central Park, until opponents derailed the effort.
This sketch, which appeared in The New York Times in 1966, was of a life-sized statue of Mary Poppins that was to be sculptured for Central Park.

The current parks commissioner, Mr. Benepe, said his department had had a “pretty firm policy” against adding statues to Central Park. “That policy is still in effect,” he said. “We’ve had all manner of proposals for sculptures, and we’ve turned them all down.” Among them were “numerous offers” of statues of John Lennon. 

Mr. Benepe said the no-statue rule had historical roots. “The park’s original designers, Olmsted and Vaux, fought a losing battle against sculptures in the park,” he said. “They were afraid it would develop a cemetery-like feel with monuments all over.”

Read more from the original NY Times story here

 

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