PROSPECT HEIGHTS – The eagle has landed—permanently, one hopes—at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch. The Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) has made a gift of a cast-copper eagle sculpture that debuted at the Washington Street headquarters of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1892, the largest of four birds of prey to decorate the building.
To celebrate the acquisition, the library is inviting the public to suggest names for the eagle. Submit a name for the historic eagle here.
The sculpture was moved to the Brooklyn Historical Society when the newspaper’s building was demolished in 1955 to make way for Cadman Plaza. The society first loaned the piece to the library in 1997. It celebrates the presence of the paper’s archive as part of the Brooklyn Collection, the largest public archive for the study of Brooklyn’s social and cultural history in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, published from 1841 until 1955, once had the largest circulation of any afternoon paper in the country, and poet Walt Whitman was its editor for two years. (The current Brooklyn Eagle daily began publishing in 1996, adopting the name after it had become public domain.)
“With the complete archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle long a significant part of our Brooklyn Collection, we are delighted to provide the paper’s mascot a permanent home in the Central Library lobby,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library. “We are grateful to the Brooklyn Historical Society for their generous gift of the watchful and majestic eagle and for their partnership throughout the year on special initiatives like Culture Pass.”
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While the sculpture was on loan to the library long before being gifted permanently, it previously spent years moving from one site to another within the borough, suffering damage that required significant restoration before it was installed inside the front entrance of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.
BHS exhibited the eagle outside its headquarters at 128 Pierrepont Street for more than ten years. It was then loaned to the Brooklyn Museum and spent another two decades battling the elements in the museum’s Warburg Sculpture Garden.
In the late 80s, the sculpture was returned to the BHS to be displayed indoors, but not until restoration work reversed the effects of almost 100 years of outdoor display. “Its dramatic 10 ft. wingspan has sagged a little since it was made by Hecla Iron Works of Williamsburg in 1892,” the New York Daily News reported at the time. “Some repairs were needed on its beak and feet.”
New talons and the lower beak were recast in fiberglass and repainted to match the surrounding material, leaving the bird in fine shape for its move to the library in 1997.
Now that the eagle has a permanent place to nest, the Library is planning a special homecoming with a naming contest and pop-up exhibit.
Members of the public are invited to suggest names for the eagle. Submissions will close on October 19 at 5pm. A panel of judges will select up to five finalists and the public will be able to vote for a favorite. The winner will receive a library gift bag.
In addition, to welcome home the eagle, Central Library is hosting an exhibition including clippings and photographs from the newspaper, printing plates and a Pulitzer Prize medal.