Whispering Column of Jerash

By Valerie Wingfield, Archives Unit
October 24, 2011
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
 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.


 Brooklyn Museum's photostream

Gerash, East Jordan, c 1900. credit: Brooklyn Museum's photostream

Jerash 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.


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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