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Whispering Column of Jerash

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 Charles Kyriazos (onwatersedge on flickr)credit: Charles Kyriazos (onwatersedge on flickr)The Whispering Column of Jerash sounds very intriguing and mysterious. What does this mean, many will ask. Are you whispering to the column or is the column whispering to you? And, more importantly where exactly is this column located...

The Whispering Column of Jerash stands quietly in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. Many people walk pass this ancient treasure not realizing that it dates back to 120 A.D. Many do not know that this column is the second oldest outdoor antiquity monument behind the famed Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park.

The inscription on the plaque states:

"This column was presented to the New York Worlds Fair and the City of New York by his Majesty King Hussein of the Hachamite Kingdom of Jordan on the occasion of Jordan's participation in the Fair. The column was received by the Hon. Robert Moses, President, New York World's Fair 1964-65 Corp. This is one of many columns in a temple erected by the Romans in 120 A.D. that stood in the Roman City of Jerash. The columns are known as the Whispering Columns of Jerash."

Details of the Column

The Whispering Column of Jerash stands 30 feet tall, topped with a Corinthian capital. The Column is located east of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. During the New York World's Fair 1964-65, the Jordanian Pavilion stood adjacent to the column. The Kingdom of Jordan gifted the column so that the column would serve as a permanent monument in the post-Fair park (NY Worlds Fair records, 1964-65, box 278)

This tells only part of the story. The column was transported over 5,700 hundred miles from Jerash, Jordan, to become an attraction of the New York World's Fair 1964-1965.

Jerash

 Brooklyn Museum's photostreamGerash, East Jordan, c 1900. credit: Brooklyn Museum's photostreamJerash or Gerasha is considered one of the finest examples of Roman architecture outside of Italy. Located north of the capital of Amman, it is the second most visited site outside of Petra in Jordan. The old city of Jerash's history stretches back to Antiquity, boasting an impressive array of outstanding Roman ruins. Among the well preserved ruins of baths and buildings stand the Corinthian columns in all their splendor.

General Pompey's conquest of this part of the Middle East, circa 64 BCE, marks the beginning of the rise of the city of Gerash, as it was known at this time. Over the next several hundred years, Gerash would flourish with agriculture, trade, and mining interests. Gerash would become part of the Decapolis League, a group of 10 wealthy and prosperous Roman cities organized in the first century BCE. The baths, buildings, temples, and columns were built over time from the wealth of this city. Eventually, Gerash would decline from changes in trading, other conquests, and natural elements. The name would be changed to the Arabic Jerash at the end of the 19th century.

Whispering...

The Whispering Columns of Jerash are part of the temple of Artemis. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin of Apollo. She is the goddess of the hunt, known to assist in childbirth.

When you stand in the middle of the temple and whisper, the sound of your voice reverberates. Whispering galleries or amphitheaters that are naturally curved may result in the effect of having your voice bounce off the walls.

If you want to try the effect of whispering, visit Grand Central Terminal (Grand Central Station for New Yorkers). A whispering gallery is located in front of the Oyster Bar & Restaurant. The arches are perfectly curved so that if you stand in one of the corners, your voice travels to the opposite end. Whispering galleries around the world include the famous St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Some photo sources include:

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more info

Thanks so much for this posting. Its timing is spot on. I have been going round in circles these few months trying to get more archival info on the transfer of this pillar to New York State. The library has specifics on the Jordan pavilion but seemingly no documents or recordings pertaining to the pillar staying behind and how it was transported etc. Any references would be amazing. Many thanks.

Whispering Column of Jerash

Thank you for responding to my blog. The NY World's Fair records,1964-65, hold one or two files of a technical nature. Information for access to the Division is located on the library's website. http://www.nypl.org/locations/schwarzman/manuscripts-division The New York Public Library is one of the finest research libraries in the world. If you have not already visited SASB, I encourage you to stop by for a visit and tour the building.

Whispering Column of Jerash

My grandfather took me for walks in this park when I was very young, and I remember this column -- he always pointed it out, explaining it came from very far away, and it intrigued me. Maybe this artifact from the Roman Empire was one of the many reasons I've come to appreciate world history so much. It's interesting how the temple was dedicated to Artemis (Greek religion), not Diana (Roman religion), reflecting the Hellenic orientation of the population. Nice article, Valerie. You've hit on one of NYC's many under appreciated treasures.

Whispering Column of Jerash

Thanks Charles. What a great story about your memory of your grandfather. Your photograph captured the column perfectly. When I mentioned to some friends about the Column, they didn't know what I was talking about. Obviously your grandfather did. I agree that it was interesting about Artemis not Diana was honored. I enjoy writing about New York City history. Working on my next one...

Whispering Column of Jerash

Thank you for this post! I have been to Flushing Meadow Park numerous times, as I lived within a few blocks of the grand park. I don't recall seeing the column and if I did, I had no idea of the history behind it. I am intrigued and plan to visit the park again and head straight to the column. I enjoy reading stories such as this.

Whispering Column

Hi Maureen. Thank you! This ancient treasure located in Queens is probably passed by many people who may not realize the history. Glad that you enjoyed my blog.

Jordan column at Flushing Meadows Park

After looking at a photo all my life of my dad as a Marine on duty at the fair in 1964, I finally had a chance to visit the site this past week while on vacation in Manhattan. I wish I had seen this information because I am a huge history buff and had no idea this was there (and didn't see it). I hope to return some day. Thanks for the article.

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