Straus Park is dedicated to Isidor and Ida Straus, a couple who passed away in each other's arms on the RMS Titanic. Isidor and Ida were on the Titanic to return home to New York. Isidor was a man of notoriety in New York, co-owner of the historic Macy's & Co as well as Abraham & Straus department store. He served as vice president of Chamber of Commerce in New York City was known by many as a generous man. He was married to Ida for over forty years, and Ida refused to get in a life boat without him. The loss of this couple was deeply mourned in New York City as well as all over the rest of the country. A memorial service was held for the couple at Carnegie Hall, where every seat was filled and people had to be turned away.
The Straus home stood at 27-47 Broadway near 105th street, but beside that stood a park called, Bloomingdale Square. On July 2, 1912 a resolution was passed that this park would be known as Straus Park in memory of the couple. The people of New York wanted something more done to memorialize the couple, and there was a campaign to build a memorial statue. There was a contest held for the design of the memorial and the winner was a Mr. Augustus Lukeman in collaboration with architect Mr. Evarts Tracy. Ultimately the awkward shape of the park prevented any huge monument from being erected, and this coincided with the modesty of Mr. and Mrs. Straus displayed in their lives. It would have been a gross misrepresentation of who they were to have a grandiose memorial erected in their memory. Therefore, it was decided the monument would not be extremely tall because the triangular shape of the park could not ‘frame it properly.'
Lukeman's design, consisted of a lily pond which was filled by a two-tiered fountain. Above the fountain, lay a bronze statue of a woman reclining on her hands in a contemplative position. This was in memory of Ida Straus. The memorial was entitled “Memory.” If you walk behind the statue, there is a bench where you can sit and rest your feet. On the back of the memorial a Bible verse is engraved: “Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives/and in their death they were not divided”-II Samuel 1:23. It was dedicated on April 15, 1915 and the whole project was funded by public donations, which is a testament to how significant the Straus' philanthropic efforts were on the community in which they helped.
Over the years, the upkeep of the statue has not been a main concern and it had become dilapidated and vulnerable to careless abuse. From 1995-1997, a project was started to expand the Park. The project cost a staggering $800K and included the addition of paving, more benches, and greater lighting. Again, in 2007, a campaign to restore the memorial was started, and was sponsored by the History Channel. Unfortunately, the pond was replaced with a flowerbed, because the maintenance was too much.
Augustus Lukeman also designed the WWI memorial statue located in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.
You can visit the park any time, seven days a week. A maintenance endowment was funded by the Straus family and it is called The Friends of Straus Park.
One of the most famed models of her time, Audrey Munson, posed as the bronze lady.