To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's voyage to America, editor Carlo Barsotti raised money from Italian-Americans through his paper Il Progresso to pay for a memorial. The thirteen-foot high statue was sculpted by Italian Gaetano Russo and placed on a twenty-six foot high granite column in the center of a traffic circle at the intersection of 59th Street and Eighth Avenue / Central Park West. 10,000 gathered on Columbus Day, 1892 for the dedication. (Rosenzweig, pp 329)
Plans to develop the area as a public space were never realized largely because of the volume of traffic on the surrounding streets. In 1999 the bland 50's era New York Coliseum was demolished and the traffic pattern was rerouted as a legitimate traffic circle. The area around the fountain was made into a pleasant but rather noisy public area.
With the completion of the new headquarters for Time Warner on the west side of Columbus Circle in the Spring of 2004, the circle was again rebuilt, providing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see the foundation for the monument, resting over the IRT subway line. The 2004-2005 reconstruction also involved creating a much more attractive and substantial fountain and seating area, and led to a later renovation of the station.