Goethe kehrt zum Leben zurück

Goethe kehrt zum Leben zurück

English translation of the headline: “Goethe returns to life” [Pedestal that held the bust of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the Highland Bowl, photo: David Kramer 2/11/21]

As seen in Sadly, there will be no “Happy Ending” in Highland Park this time, about five and a half years ago Rochestarians heard the distressing news that the bronze bust of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the Highland Bowl was stolen and almost certainly melted down and sold.

(left) 2016 Audrey Boyce [Photo: David Kramer]; (right) 2008 David Kramer [Photo: Dean Tucker] From Audrey’s excellent adventure in Rochester

For those who amble in Highland Park, the vandalization of the statue overlooking the bowl stage was a viscerally felt loss.

Photo: David Kramer 2/11/21

Hence, I was thrilled to learn a sculptor has been identified to recreate the iconic memorial and a foundry found to cast it: Goethe kehrt zum Leben zurück [Goethe returns to life]

From CITY February 2021, Vol 49 No 6

The letter writers Max Schaibel and Roger Ehrich hope to place the replica monument in a more secure and visible setting, preferably at the Greater Rochester International Airport in an installation educating visitors on the rich legacy of German Americans in Rochester.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (left) 17 Mar 1949 Central shaft of Goethe monument designed by William Ehrich, of the Memorial Art Gallery, and to be set in the poet’s garden at Highland Park (right) 18 Sep 1950 POETRY IN BRONZE Monica Wittman, 15, daughter of the president of city’s United German Societies, unveils a bust of Goethe erected in Highland Park Bowl as tribute to the German poet A speaker was Dr. Ewald P. Appelt, University of Rochester German professor, shown at the left. (see 1949 Goethe Monument newsletter provided by Roger Ehrich)

While the idea of an airport installation is appealing, my personal preference is to keep the monument in the bowl.  The bust added ambience and charm to its communal setting. Given that Goethe was a dramatist, the placement of the statue near the theater stage is fitting. In 1956 and 1960, the opera Faust — based on Goethe’s tragic play — was performed: the bronzed Goethe peering at the production.

Democrat and Chronicle, 05 Aug 1956 “Faust” to  Wind Up ‘Opera Under the Stars’ Series 

Democrat and Chronicle (left) Feb 25, 1984 Photo: Rod Hoffmann Democrat and Chronicle Bust of the German writer-scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe sits amid trees and bushes on hillside near Highland Bowl. (right) Sep 23, 1992 Photo: Richard Margolis Wind-swept clumps of hair dominate this close-up of Goethe.

Last year, the Frederick Douglass Monument was moved from inside the bowl to Robinson Drive at a high profile setting including benches. Perhaps something similar could be done with Goethe who could look down admiringly at the plays of Shakespeare that grace the stage every summer.


I wonder if the Goethe monument might find a home at or near the Historic German House on Gregory Street in the South Wedge, almost a stone’s throw from the Highland Bowl. If feasible, that location would amplify the contributions of German-American Rochestarians.

The Historic German House, 315 Gregory St. [Photo: David Kramer, 2/12/21]

On that 2016 day when Audrey hammed it up at the Goethe monument, she also posed next to the George Eastman monument on the University of Rochester’s River Campus.

(left) Democrat and Chronicle, 11 Jun 1954  IN EASTMAN’S MEMORY The stainless steel top of a monument to George Eastman as it was put in place yesterday on the University of Rochester River Campus. Adjusting the heavy disk are, from left, Armondo Menegazzi, a mason, and William E. Ehrich, who designed the memorial. In background is Dr. John R. Slater, who was in charge of the inscriptions on the new monument. (right) 2016 Audrey Boyce with David Kramer below [Photo: Leslie Kramer from Audrey’s excellent adventure in Rochester]

Unbeknownst to us, William E. Ehrich designed both the Goethe and the Eastman statues. For more, see William Ernst Ehrich


Sadly, there will be no “Happy Ending” in Highland Park this time

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


  1. Pam

    David Kramer you ROCK! I was born and raised in Rochester. Highland Park was my playground. I love reading your stories of the history of Rochester. Thank you.

    • dkramer3@naz.edu

      Thanks, Pam. As I recall, we met when I did some substitute teaching in the RCSD. We’d love any stories of your own you might like to add to the magazine.

  2. Gwen nelson

    Couldn’t they find a spot in the poet’s garden in Highland Park?

    • dkramer3@naz.edu

      Right now, the pedestal sans the bust is right near the poet’s garden. Based on the letter, it seems the issue is that any replacement statue might just be vandalized as was the original. I wish the letter writers who I cited had left some contact information.

      • Luke Lorenzo

        What about pairing it with the Shiller statue, like in Weimer, Germany? The Schiller statue is in Schiller Park on Andrews Street where Franklin ends on the edge of the Inner Loop. Maybe both statues could reside together, as the authors were friends and collaborators whose contributions to German literature are celebrated by statues of both men together in Europe and in the United States.


        One suggestion is that they reside at St. Joseph’s Park on Pleasant Street (near N. Clinton) where what is left of the church built in 1846 by Rochester’s German American Catholic congregation anchors the park . This may be the most appropriate spot, but other places may bring more foot traffic to appreciate the statues such as Highland Park or near the German House and St. Boniface’s in the triangle park at the intersection of Gregory and South.

        • dkramer3@naz.edu

          Luke, those are great suggestions. Pairing with Schiller would create a little German enclave, although it might not be a secure location. Some others — as did I –mentioned near the German House. St. Joseph’s Park is also intriguing. I’ll send your ideas to group working on the project.


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