Category Archives: Monuments and Statuary

The monument to Washington’s Great War veterans

The District of Columbia War Memorial

The District of Columbia War Memorial

I took this photograph of the Great War Memorial a few months back.  It was restored a few years ago and looks fabulous. As you can tell by the image however, it does not get too much pedestrian traffic. That it is a tad off the beaten path explains part of it. Still, that can’t be the whole reason. It is less remote than it was even just three years ago when the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was built; one walks through this general area when passing from the Mall to the MLK statue or vice versa. Even with the extra foot traffic, people do not seem inclined to stop and look. Maybe that will change during the Centennial.

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I met historian Mark Levitch at the World War One Centennial Commission Trade Show in June. Since then I have contributed a few memorials to his World War I Memorial Inventory Project with a few more in the hopper. Earlier this week Mark was interviewed by CBS News about the project. Check out the video here.

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, Washington, D.C., WW1

Marking the Great War

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I just got home from the Apple store in SOHO where I took an iPhoto workshop to brush up on my picture taking skills. I did this because at the World War I Centennial Commission trade show last weekend I agreed to participate in The World War I Memorial Inventory Project. The goal of project director Mark Levitch is to photograph and document 10,000 monuments to the Great War spread across the United States. Many are hiding in plain site.

As after the Civil War, the process of memorialization began almost immediately. Nations, states, and small towns around the globe built monuments in the 1920 and 1930s. What these all had in common is that every protagonist believed it had justice and righteousness on its side. This should not be surprising given the incredible human, financial, and material sacrifices they made. Who wants to think they sacrificed for nothing?

I intend to start off with the many World War I monuments on Governors Island. As I noted a few weeks ago there are many sprinkled across the island’s 172 acres. My goal is to do fifty, mostly in New York, over the next five years. I am not going to do the ones on New York City parks because the Parks Department has already done extensive documentation on these already. There are many in post offices, botanical gardens, and places like that. Often they are hiding in plain site.

I will not post the same images here on the Strawfoot that I submit to the inventory project, but occasionally I will take photos of the same subjects and share them here. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this.

(image/tablet for Lieutenant James Andes on Governors Island)

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Filed under Governors Island, Monuments and Statuary, WW1

WW1 Centennial Trade Show report

Yesterday I attended the WW1 Centennial Commission Trade Show. I met a lot of people who are doing some interesting things for the commemoration of the Great War. Here are a few pics from the show.

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The trade show brought together museum officials, authors, and others to discuss their projects for the Centennial. Jones Day, theWashington white shoe law firm, hosted the event.

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The acting chairman of the Commission spoke first and discussed the group’s strategic plan. They have obviously put a great deal of thought and energy into the enterprise. He and the other commissioners are all volunteers.

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Before the trade show presentations there was a fifteen minute musical interlude by Benjamin Sears and Bradford Conner. They set a nice tone for the afternoon.

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Sergeant York’s son (black shirt and glasses on right) was there with his own son and granddaughter (seated to his left).

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Here are a few of the exhibits. As with the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Great War Centennial will incorporate the  changes that have taken place in historiographically in recent decades.

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This is a sampling of some of the literature I gathered. I do not want to give away too much right now but I spoke to various folks about working on some projects over the next 4-5 years. I think the next few years will be fun and productive in a number of ways.

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Filed under Memory, Monuments and Statuary, Museums, WW1

The other Roosevelt Island

When in Washington over spring break the Hayfoot and I went to Roosevelt Island. This out-of-the-way site is something most tourists never see, which is understandable given that it is a little difficult to get to. Still, as the crow flies it is only a mile or so from the Lincoln Memorial. Roosevelt Island rests in the Potomac River and can be reached from the Roslyn stop on the Blue Line. The Iwo Jima statue is at the same stop but we missed that this time around.

Roosevelt Island sign

The Potomac River

The Potomac River

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Look closely through the trees and you can see the skyscrapers of Arlington, Virginia from the island. Landscape architecture is fascinating because the designer must be thinking decades down the line as to what his creation will look like when the trees and foliage fully mature.

One of Roosevelt Island’s charms is its tranquility so close to the Greater DC sprawl. The degree of difficulty in reaching the island is intentional. The planners wanted people to visit but also intended it to be a refuge. Believe me, you have to want to get here. Again, this is just a long toss from the Lincoln Memorial and the other sites on the Mall.

It may seem like pristine nature, but the island and memorial were a planned environment built by the Roosevelt Memorial Association in the 1930s. The RMA purchased the island from the Washington Gas Light Company for $364,000 and donated it to the American people in 1932.

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Paul Manship designed the statue. It is more severe in photos than in person. The surrounding tress soften the subject’s commanding size and pose. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. created the ninety acre island’s landscaping.

The statue came several decades after the memorialization of the island itself. The Depression, World War II, and other issues took precedence over the statue’s  creation. Lyndon Johnson dedicated the statue on 27 October 1967 with Alice Roosevelt Longworth in attendance.

LBJ and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, October 1967

LBJ and Alice Roosevelt Longworth at the statue dedication, October 1967

"Manhood"

“Manhood”

This monolith is one of four. Each notes an attribute considered important by Theodore Roosevelt.

Our only mistake was not bringing lunch. I have a feeling we’ll be back come summer.

(LBJ and Alive Roosevelt Longworth image from Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University)

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace (NPS), Washington, D.C.

The origins of the monuments men

I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Watson Library doing some research today when I passed this display case.

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I did a double-take when I noticed this image of none other than Dwight Eisenhower himself. This is he and Mamie walking down the Met Museum steps familiar to New Yorkers for generations.

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The date was 2 April 1946. That day the Met made Eisenhower an Honorary Fellow for Life for his role in saving European artworks during the Second World War. This is the first page of the address he gave that April day:

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Here is the order he gave in May 1944, just a few weeks before D-Day. It is revealing that he would issue such an order even before the Normandy Invasion. He always said there was no contingency for failure. Thus, there were preparations for saving artworks even before a beachhead had been secured. Think about it.

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Here are Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley. The photo was taken by a U.S. Army lieutenant in a German salt mine on 12 April 1945, a month before the war ended and a year before Ike spoke at the Met.

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In a nice touch, the museum has a gallery itinerary in which one cane find artworks now in the Met that were saved by the Monuments Men. I had seen a few of these a number of times over the years without knowing their provenance.

Here is one of those works.

Guardroom with the Deliverance of Saint Peter David Teniers the Younger, ca. 1645–47

Guardroom with the Deliverance of Saint Peter
David Teniers the Younger, ca. 1645–47

The painting was donated to the Met in 1964, half a century ago and only nineteen years after the war’s end.

(images/Ike et al, National Archives; Guardroom, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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Filed under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Monuments and Statuary, Museums, WW2

A Green-Wood Sunday

I ventured out on this crisp Sunday to go for a walk in Green-Wood Cemetery.

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The images above give a sense of the extent of the snowfall in New York City this winter. There is a little tramping here, but for the most part the snow in the cemetery was still pristine. Today was sparkling with bright blue skies and frigid temperatures.

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The Civil War headstones were visually arresting in the snow. Naturally I was drawn to this one for a Harvey P. Hawley. A quick internet search gives us this information from the 17 October 1865 New York Times:

HAWLEY. — Buried in Greenwood, on Saturday, Oct. 14, the remains of Lieut. HARVEY P. HAWLEY, 82d N.Y. Vols., (or 2d N.Y.S.M.,) who fell in the battle of Fair Oaks, May 31, 1862, aged 23 years, 2 months and 17 days — the first officer slain of that regiment whose glorious muster-rolls numbered nearly five thousand men.

Hawley was killed in the Battle of Seven Pines, the same battle in which  Joseph E. Johnston was wounded and soon replaced by Robert E. Lee. I am assuming he was initially buried in Virginia and reinterred here in Brooklyn after the war.

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An Ancestry search reveals that Captain Hoffman Atkinson of the First West Virginia Cavalry was made a full captain on 28 May 1862, three days before Hawley was killed at Fair Oaks. He died in 1901.

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John A. Robinson was a surgeon in the 5th New York, also known as Duryée’s Zouaves. Many men of the 5th New York are laid to rest in Green-Wood. Colonel Abram Duryée’s himself is buried just around the corner from Robinson. I was going to go up and take a picture of Duryée’s grave atop the hill where it stands, but the snow was so high I decided against it.

Robinson died in 1885. Here is a record I found in Fold3. Attaching a story to a name on a headstone makes these men more real. We throw throw the numbers around a little too cavalierly.

Robinson, John A

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Above is a few of us at the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry monument at Manassas last summer. Way back in July 2011, on the 150th anniversary of First Bull Run, I posted about the New York memorials at Manassas. Robinson died a good thirty years before the monument was dedicated in 1906. The monument is for Second Bull Run.

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For the most part I was meandering, but I went out of the way to visit the Roosevelt family plot. Theodore Roosevelt Senior died on the day in 1878. I wrote a small something about this for the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace Facebook Page this morning, so I will not into it here. If you check it out, make sure to like the TRB page for more.

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace (NPS)

Battle lines tightening in Florida

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From the “War that never ends” department, a curious story is emerging in Florida in which people are getting angry about a proposed Federal monument to be placed at the Battle of Olustee state park. It seems there are three Confederate, but no Union, memorials at the site. I have never understood these imbroglios. Here is a small piece, complete with video, explaining more. Olustee is actually one of the places I will be visiting as I retrace the steps of Joseph Roswell Hawley in the writing of my biography of him. I really want to see what comes of this story.

(image/Michael Rivera)

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Filed under Florida, Joseph Roswell Hawley, Memory, Monuments and Statuary

Cleaning Tecumseh, cont’d

Manhattan's Grand Army Plaza, 7:15 am

Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, 7:15 am

Update: I was in the city running some errand or another last week and noticed that the Sherman statue in Grand Army Plaza was still covered up. I was a little surprised, as the post I wrote about this was some months ago. Still, the stature did need work and I would rather that they do it right. Today’s New York Times has more on the project, complete with video.

I was in the city bright and early this morning running to a dentist appointment when, crossing 59th Street toward 5th Avenue, I noticed that the Sherman statue was covered for renovation. I blogged about the area back in 2011. I had not been in the neighborhood for a while and this was the first I had seen or heard of the project. My first thought when I saw the fencing and signage was, The Central Park Conservancy manages the plaza, along with its Saint-Gaudens masterwork? Then again, why should I be surprised? A quick internet search reveals this New York Times article with the full story from mid-June. The short version is that the pigeons were winning the battle of attrition versus General Sherman. Apparently previous restoration efforts did not go to well; guilding applied in 1989 was too bright, giving the artwork an unnatural hue which angered and upset many in the neighborhood. I have no fears for this current project and am sure the end result will be fine. Keeping the pigeons away permanently is another story.

I am not counting on it but I would love to see a more concerted effort to preserve Civil War New York and see it presented to the public in a more conscious way.

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, New York City

One day in August

The Hayfoot and I were walking across the Mall from the National Museum of American History yesterday on our way to the FDR Memorial when, crossing Independence Avenue, we heard a tap-tap-tapping sound emanating from the direction of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. The MLK statue is one of those disasters so jarringly off in its size and scope, so inappropriate for the man it is meant to honor, so . . . wrong, that it is almost magnificent. Its inappropriateness was all the more obvious after having just left the museum, where we had just seen the Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963″ exhibit.

The tapping we heard was somehow appropriate for the still new memorial: it was the engravers chipping away the original, paraphrased “drum major” inscription that angered so many. A ranger told us that the work is all but complete, and that the finishing touches will be in place in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington in a few weeks.

MLK Jr Memorial from rear, with scaffolding and covering, 5 August 2013

MLK Jr Memorial from rear, with scaffolding and covering, 5 August 2013

. . . and from the front

. . . and from the front

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, Washington, D.C.

Cleaning Tecumseh

Manhattan's Grand Army Plaza, 7:15 am

Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, 7:15 am

I was in the city bright and early this morning running to a dentist appointment when, crossing 59th Street toward 5th Avenue, I noticed that the Sherman statue was covered for renovation. I blogged about the area back in 2011. I had not been in the neighborhood for a while and this was the first I had seen or heard of the project. My first thought when I saw the fencing and signage was, The Central Park Conservancy manages the plaza, along with its Saint-Gaudens masterwork? Then again, why should I be surprised? A quick internet search reveals this New York Times article with the full story from mid-June. The short version is that the pigeons were winning the battle of attrition versus General Sherman. Apparently previous restoration efforts did not go to well; guilding applied in 1989 was too bright, giving the artwork an unnatural hue which angered and upset many in the neighborhood. I have no fears for this current project and am sure the end result will be fine. Keeping the pigeons away permanently is another story.

I am not counting on it but I would love to see a more concerted effort to preserve Civil War New York and see it presented to the public in a more conscious way.

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, New York City