Monday, May 30, 2016

CNY Public Art: The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Syracuse

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Postcard.
Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Postcard

CNY Public Art: The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Syracuse
by Samuel D. Gruber

For Memorial Day we look at Syracuse's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument at Clinton Square, the city's largest and most prominent monuments to war veterans, and the grandest local expression of public art from the period of "The City Beautiful" and Beaux-Arts design. Memorial Day has its origins in Decoration Day and was celebrated to honor the dead of the Civil War. In Syracuse it took almost a half century before a large and fitting memorial was built as the backdrop for public ceremony. The monument was built to honor the 12,000 individuals from Onondaga County who fought in the Civil War, but it is now been rededicated in  memory of all the county's service men and women.

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber
Clarence H. Blackall (1857-1942) was the architect, and the bronze sculptures were designed by Cyrus Dallin (1861-1944). The East group of figures is titled, "A Call to Arms" and the West is named, "An Incident at Gettysburg." Dallin was a leading sculptor of the period, known especially for his majestic figures of Native Americans on horseback, such as Appeal to the Great Spirit (1909), now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and and his statue of the Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City.

Dallin sculpted animated gorups of figures in high relief. His inspiration no doubt came in part from the Arc de Triumph in Paris. This is in stark contrast to the more staid and stolid Civil monuments erected across the country in the decade closer to the conflict, such as the multi-figuree "wedding cake" monument type of the  Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument erected in Detroit in 1872, or the column monument in Troy, New York, dedicated in 1891, or the solitary soldier keeping watch in Brandon, Vermont, inaugurated in 1886. 

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber
The following information about the Syracuse Monument comes from the Art Inventories Catalog of the  Smithsonian American art Museum.


On Dec. 12, 1905, thanks in part to the efforts of Mrs. Harriet Schwartz whose older brother was killed during the Civil War, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution committing itself to erecting a Civil War monument, and authorized a chairman to appoint a monument committee. Between 1906 and 1909, the Board of Supervisors made several appropriations to fund the monument, the cost of which eventually topped $100,000. A small amount of the funding had been raised earlier by Mrs. Harriet Schwartz who organized donations from school children ($238.38) and a benefit concert ($229.50).

The bronze reliefs were cast in France at the Gruet Bronze Foundry ("Call to Arms") and the Jaboeuf & Rouard Fondeurs ("Mending the Flag"). At the time of the dedication, however, only one bronze relief was in place; "Mending the Flag" arrived later and was not installed until June 23, 1911.

When originally built, the Beaux-Arts style monument was the centerpiece for a large stone plaza with formal granite piers and walls surrounding it. Since then, the plaza has been reduced in size and relandscaping done. In each of the four corners of the plaza are reconstructed granite piers from the original wall. Each of the piers has a cast iron light standard dating from subsequent modifications.

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber
Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber
A tall white granite monument surmounted by four eagles holding aloft a large sphere. The granite shaft is adorned with four granite unfluted Roman Ionic columns at each corner and decorated with two bronze reliefs depicting scenes from the Civil War. On the east side of the monument, "The Call to Arms" relief depicts an infantryman with his musket, a sailor with his sword drawn, an artilleryman with his cannon and cannon tamper, and a cavalryman holding the reins of a rearing horse. A female figure hovers over the figures holding the American Flag and blowing a trumpet to sound the call to war. On the west side of the monument, "Mending the Flag" depicts the moment during the Battle of Gettysburg when William G. Lilly, the color bearer in Pickett's army, repairs the broken flagstaff of New York's 149th regiment. His fellow soldiers rallying around him to save the day, as General Pickett astride his horse commands his men with sword held high. The monument is placed within a larger stepped plaza setting with cast iron lighting.

(On east side:) TO THE BRAVE SONS OF ONONDAGA WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY ON LAND AND SEA THAT THE UNION MIGHT BE PRESERVED AND THE CONSTITUTION MAINTAINED (On west side:) THIS MEMORIAL IS ERECTED BY THE GRATEFUL PEOPLE OF ONONDAGA IN APPRECIATION OF THE GLORIOUS ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE MEN WHO VOUNTEERED THEIR SERVICES IN DEFENSE OF THE FLAG AND FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE NATION. 1861-1865. MAY THEIR EXAMPLE SPEAK TO FUTURE GENERATIONS

(On the north side:) BENEATH THIS STONE ARE THE NAMES OF 12,265 VOLUNTEERS OF ONONDAGA COUNTY, WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION. THIS MONUMENT STANDS AS A TRIBUTE TO THE BRAVE MEN WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN DEFENSE OF THE REPUBLIC -WHOSE NAMES AND HEROIC DEEDS ARE GRAVEN DEEP IN THE HEARTS OF THEIR COUNTRY. WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN. THAT HIS NATION UNDER GOD SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH. -ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Syracuse, NY. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

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