Pelham Bay Park
One of the most impressive monuments in New York City, the Bronx Victory Memorial was designed by architect and landscape architect John J. Sheridan (1888–1954), and sculptors Belle Kinney (1887–1959) and Leopold Scholz (1877–1946). It consists of a landscaped plaza and a raised paved terrace in which stands a massive limestone pedestal with sculptural reliefs. At the center of the pedestal, a Corinthian column is surmounted by a gilded bronze victory figure. Erected in 1932 and dedicated in 1933, the memorial and adjacent grove of trees on the south side of Shore Road commemorate the 947 soldiers from the Bronx who gave their lives in service during World War I.
In 1921 the American Legion planted rows of trees along the Bronx’s Grand Concourse, each with a bronze plaque, to a fallen soldier. In 1928 when the boulevard was widened and the subway built underneath, these trees were removed. At the behest of several veterans groups, the trees were consolidated into a Memorial Grove between Baychester Avenue and Eastern Boulevard (now Shore Road); these efforts coincided with a plan to erect a unified monument that would honor all servicemen from the Bronx.
Plans were submitted for the war memorial by Bronx Parks Commissioner Thomas J. Dolen to the New York City Art Commission in the spring of 1930. The original proposed site - south of Pelham Parkway and west of Baychester Avenue - was modified, to avoid both removing memorial trees and having a screen of buildings as a backdrop.
John Joseph Sheridan was a New York-based architect. He had been a designer for the James Gamble Rogers architectural firm and Starrett & Van Vleck Architects, well-known practices in New York City. He also was an apt choice to design this monument, as he had served as an infantry captain in World War I. As built, the monument he conceived was approached by two gravel-grout paths with granite flagstone borders around a lavish rectangular floral bed including forsythia, spirea, deutzia, mock orange, hyacinths, flame azaleas, and bridal wreath among other plantings. A hedge of barberry (Berberis) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga) framed the entire garden.
On the south side, decorative limestone urns and terra-cotta pots flank a broad central staircase. At the terrace level, Cordova cream limestone reliefs, designed by Kinney and Scholz, depict regiments of soldiers marching into battle. Most striking is their “Lady of Victory” poised atop a stone globe at the apex of the 70-foot high column. Measuring 18 feet in height and weighing 7,300 pounds, the sculpture and the classical column are part of a long symbolic sculptural tradition dating to Greek and Roman antiquity.
The monument was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony on September 24, 1933, after a week’s postponement due to torrential rain. Mayor John P. O’Brien (1873–1951), Commissioner Dolen, and former acting mayor Joseph V. McKee (1889-1956) all gave addresses. A parade, massing of colors, aviation display, and music by the Police, Fire, and Sanitation Departments’ bands, added to the festivities. The statue was unveiled by Mrs. Julia Zimmerman, president of the Bronx Gold Star Mothers.
Though ushered into the world with fanfare, the monument suffered over time from faulty construction, environmental erosion, and vandalism. In 1943, Parks crews conducted a large structural restoration. Numerous graffiti removals and paint-overs took their toll on the surface of the masonry blocks, ornamental details, and sculptural reliefs. The gold leaf disappeared altogether from Victory, leaving her bronze surface exposed to the elements. A crack in the supporting globe represented a potential safety hazard.
Council Member Madeline Provenzano sponsored a $1.1 million capital project, which in 2001, completed the first phase of restoring the Bronx Victory Memorial. The renovation consisted of extensive cleaning, repair, and replacement of the limestone masonry and ornamentation. The missing eagle’s head was recarved as was the massive globe supporting the statue. The bronze sculpture was removed from her perch, repaired, regilded, and installed on the new globe. During the course of reconstruction, a time capsule was unearthed that will be reinstalled with new mementos in a second phase of work including plaza and landscape improvements. On November 11, 2001, at 11 a.m., exactly 83 years after the Armistice that ended World War I, the restored monument was rededicated.
Bronx Victory Memorial Details
- Sculptor: Belle Kinney, Leopold F. Scholz
- Architect: John J. Sheridan
- Description: Corinthian column surmounted by standing figure (heroic scale), on pedestal with four-corner extensions bearing urns; fronted by right and left base elements each with a bas-relief; terrace with steps at front has six urns
- Materials: Column--Cordova Texas limestone; Figure--bronze; Bas-reliefs--limestone; 4 urns--limestone; 2 urns--terra cotta
- Dimensions: Column H: 75'; Figure H: 18'; Pedestal H: 18' W: 50' D: 27'; Terrace H: 3' W: 164' x D: 82'
- Cast: 1933
- Dedicated: September 24, 1933
- Donor: Public subscription
- Inscription: A GRATEFUL CITY ERECTED THIS SHAFT / TO THE GLORIOUS MEMORY / OF ITS BRONX COUNTY SONS / WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WAR.
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