Thursday, May 21, 2015

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch, Hartford, CT

Today we took advantage of a free tour of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford, CT. We had been by this many times, but never really looked at it this closely.

This was the first permanent triumphal arch in America. Designed by architect, George W. Keller,  it was dedicated on September 17, 1886 on the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. It is interesting to note that Mr. Keller had a fear of cemeteries and asked that he and his wife's ashes be interred in the monument, and such is the case.

This memorial is a tribute to the 4,000 Hartford citizens who served in the Civil War. 400 of them died fighting for the Union. A bronze plaque (I guess I didn't get a picture of it) was added in 1987 after Airron Bethea, a 7th grade student, researching for an essay, drew it to the city's attention that 128 African Americans served in the war from Hartford.

The brownstone building with Gothic design was made with brownstone from Portland, CT. The two towers are joined by a frieze. The North frieze is the war side with scenes of General Grant and his troops and also marines getting ready to attack.

The South frieze is the peace side. The woman in the middle represents the city of Hartford. On each side are citizens welcoming soldiers home.

It amazes me the detail and to think it can barely be seen from the street.
There are four symbols representing the Navy, Artillery, Calvary and Infantry around the towers.

Figures eight feet tall are around the monument and are meant to represent the type of people who gave up their livelihoods and left their families to join the war. They are a farmer, blacksmith, mason, student carpenter and an African American breaking chains of bondage.

On the top of each tower is an angel--the angels of peace. One is Raphael holding cymbals and the other is Gabriel playing a trumpet. These were originally terracotta, but were replaced with bronze ones in 1987.

The memorial is 116 feet tall and yes, we did hike the 96 steps up the spiral staircase. If you don't want to count, every tenth step is a wide one, so you can count by tens to know how much farther it is, since the stairway is dark and winding. Huffing and puffing aside, the view from the top was worth it. For those who are not comfortable with heights, like me, it is very sturdy and safe in the top of the arch. It is open but the sides are high enough to feel secure. The view of the Capitol is awesome. 

A group of students waiting to come up for a tour.

The inside of the top of the tower.

The stairway on the way down.

The tour guides were very informative. George did gently correct a couple of Civil War facts. The arch is open every Thursday for the summer 12-1:30 pm. We highly recommend taking advantage of this special opportunity. We won't look at it the same any more or take for granted its beauty.

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