| Portland |
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| || SOLDIERS' MONUMENT |
548 Main Street (oppos.), corner of Bartlett Street
Dedicated: May 30, 1872
Type: Tall brownstone pedestal, shaft, and figure
Fabricator: James G. Batterson
Architect: George Keller, attr.
Sculptor: Charles Conrads, attr.
SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Portland, is significant historically because it is a tangible symbol of honor and respect paid by the town to its sons who died in the Civil War and because it is constructed of local brownstone. A town meeting held on September 9, 1871, voted to go ahead with the monument at a cost of $4,000 (final cost was $4,500). The language used in the town meeting resolution states the town's motivation in words probably appropriate for many towns throughout the state, as follows:
Whereas, in the late war of the rebellion a large number of the inhabitants of the Town of Portland Patriotically [sic] sacrificed their lives to the restoration of peace and harmony of our distracted land, and whereas we are reaping and our children after us will reap the inestimable benefits of the terrible sacrifice of blood that they have made for us and the land at large, and whereas some token of our appreciation of the magnitude of the sacrifice made by them for us and those to come after us, and some memorial that shall outlive and outlast the changes of time and seasons [is] eminently due from us to their sacrificed lives, therefore....
While the resolution gave a forceful and informative sense of the memorial intent, it did not address the question of imagery. Was a conscious decision made to adopt the standard figure on shaft on pedestal? What alternatives, if any, were considered? Who conducted the deliberations? What considerations guided the deliberations? Information of this character, relating to the process and rationale for selecting imagery and design, is regrettably unknown for almost all Connecticut Civil War monuments. An exception is SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MEMORIAL ARCH, Hartford.
The September 9, 1871, resolution provided that the monument be enclosed by a fence. An early but unidentified and undated image shows the monument with a wrought-iron picket fence running between stone posts. An 1885 photograph shows the monument with an expanse of land in front of it. Neither depicts the present retaining wall. Accordingly, speculation arises as to whether the wall may have been added when the site was altered, perhaps in connection with street improvements. A later historic photograph has a trolley car in front of the retaining wall, indicating that if not original, the wall was built by about the turn of the century.
The two cannon were received from the New York Arsenal on Governor's Island on August 4, 1897. Their previous history did not accompany them. The cannon were taken off the site in 1966, one on loan to South Windsor, the other put in storage. They were returned to place in 1976.
SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Portland, is significant artistically because it is a large brownstone memorial with good details, now in a remarkably fine state of preservation. Components of the monument, base, dado, shaft, and figure, are standard, but they are put together expertly. The columns at the dado corners, the gablets of the dado cornice and shaft capital, and, most of all, the quality of the stone establish the monument as being above average.
Exactly who designed the monument is not clear, because the record says the stone was to be cut at Batterson's in Hartford. The wording implies that the stone, owned by Portland, was sent to Batterson for processing--perhaps according to Portland's instructions. Since Portland was a brownstone-quarry town of national importance, some know-how on the part of the town fathers with respect to the best way to proceed is entirely possible. On the other hand, the monument may have been designed by the Batterson organization, in which event George Keller was architect (he left Batterson in spring of 1872) and Charles Conrads was sculptor. No doubt Conrads was sculptor even if the town gave overall instructions. In any event, the results have well stood the test of time.
The low surrounding wall has not stood up as well. Parts are missing, and the stone has shifted, indicating the need for re-setting.
SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Portland, is located at a street intersection in a polygonal-shaped site that includes two cannon and is surrounded by a decorated low retaining wall. The monument is a tall (33') brownstone memorial consisting of base, die, shaft, and figure. It is dedicated to Portland men who lost their lives in the Civil War.
The front face of the base of the die is continued upward under a segmental curve to accommodate the lettering noted below. A similar device is used at 26th REGT. CONN. VOLS. MONUMENT, Norwich, and elsewhere. The corners of the die are inset with vertical columns, instead of the expected cannon (see GRIFFIN A. STEADMAN MONUMENT, Barry Square, Hartford, and SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Plymouth, for examples). The columns have foliate capitals of central volute flanked by flower petals. The gablets of the dado cornice, over cavetto supporting molding, display an incised stylized foliate Neo-Grec motif, which is somewhat unusual, but appropriate to the 1870s, and consistent with the column capitals. These details suggest the influence of a designer such as Keller. The ridge lines of the gablets are rounded.
An eagle in relief over stepped Seals of Connecticut and the United States adorns the front of the base of the shaft. The straight shaft, not tapered, rises with chamfered corners between the horizontal bands to a capital or cove embellished with acanthus leaves set below corner volutes. The capital repeats the central gablets with Neo-Grec motifs from the dado cornice. The crowning figure stands with his right foot forward; his rifle, overcoat, and kepi are of standard design.
The brownstone of the pedestal and shaft appears to be largely free of ex-foliation, delamination, spalling, or other indications of major deterioration. There are some hairline cracks. Close examination is needed to determine the condition of the figure. See Conservation Assessment Report for the Civil War Brownstone Monument, Portland, CT for further detail.
The low brownstone wall, which appears to have been built around the polygonal site toward the end of the 19th century (see Historical Significance), is made of large brownstone blocks. Since grade falls off toward Main Street, the wall is higher in front than in back. Brownstone blocks placed periodically on the wall create the effect of piers. Hemispheres of brownstone are on top of the piers. Some of the piers and some of the hemispheres are missing. The stone blocks have shifted and need re-setting.
Two 3" wrought-iron rifled guns are on the site, on either side of the monument.
Front (northwest) face of base ("third riser"), first word in segmental curve, incised caps:ERECTED
MAY 30, 1872,
BY THE TOWN OF PORTLAND;
TO THE MEMORY OF HER BRAVE SONS
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN DEFENSE OF THE UNION,
DURING THE WAR OF THE REBELLION,
1861 - 5
Above, face of die:name and unit, on first line
DIED (repeated for each name, followed by date and place of death, on second line
Above, raised caps in bands formed by torus moldings:ATLANTA / GETTYSBURG
Above:SILVER RUN / BENTONVILLE
Above:RESACA / PEACHTREE CREEK
Above:CASSVILLE / CHANCELLORSVILLE
Conservation Assessment Report for the Civil War Brownstone Monument, Portland, CT (Westport, CT: Fine Objects Conservation Inc [sic], January 9, 1995). Connecticut Historical Commission.
[Middletown] Press, November 12, 1976.
Minutes of Portland Town Meeting, September 9, 1871.
Photographs (unidentified) from 1994 grant application made by Town of Portland to Connecticut Historical Commission.