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Saratoga Park

Saratoga Park War Memorial

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

In 1895, the City of Brooklyn purchased this property from James and Emeline Browne in order to build a public park. The site, located in the 25th Ward, had served as an ad hoc circus and recreation grounds, and was improved over the next eight years. Being the largest such amenity in the immediate vicinity, it became well-used by the community. The park derives its name from adjacent Saratoga Avenue, one of a number of north-south streets in this part of Brooklyn named for significant towns and cities in New York State.

In 1920, the Citizen’s Memorial Committee of Districts 31 and 32 awarded a $5,500 commission to Italian-American sculptor James Novelli (1885–1940) to create this monument to the soldiers from this neighborhood who perished in World War I. Novelli created a bronze relief allegorical female figure holding a palm frond, and supporting a shield - symbols of peace and war. It was cast by Roman Bronze Works, at the time based in Brooklyn. The relief was installed on a 9’6”-high stele, and two flanking stones of Milford pink granite bore bronze honor rolls inscribed with the names of the dead. The monument was dedicated in 1921.

Novelli was born in Sulmona, a province of Aquila, Italy in 1885. His family settled in New York when he was five years old, and at an early age he impressed his teachers at P.S. 23 with his natural artistic skill. Novelli returned to Italy in 1903 to study, and while a student, earned an honorable mention for his artwork submitted to the International Exposition in Paris, France in 1906. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Rome in 1908.

Returning to New York, where he resided at West 23rd Street in Manhattan, Novelli was much in demand as a sculptor of funereal and public monuments. Besides this monument, he also created the Clason Point War Memorial (1928) in the Bronx, the Winfield War Memorial (1926), Queens, and bronze mausoleum doors in Calvary Cemetery (1923) for which he won the Henry O. Avery Prize for sculpture. In the 1930s Novelli worked on the Parks monuments conservation crew, and even helped to make repairs in 1937 on his Saratoga War Memorial. However, during the Great Depression, his artistic career languished, and growing increasingly despondent, Novelli took his own life in 1940.

Novelli’s sculpture also met an untimely demise. The honor rolls were reported stolen on September 24, 1970. The sculpture itself was stolen on April 20, 2000, but a police investigation helped recover numerous pieces of the work at local scrap yards. Several suspects were apprehended, but lack of eyewitnesses caused the charges against the defendants to be dropped. While the pedestal remains in the park, the sculpture for all intents and purposes has been destroyed. Funds between $150,000 and $225,000 are sought to recreate the sculpture and honor rolls, and restore the monument to its former glory as an object of civic pride.

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The vandalized war memorial in Saratoga Park is being recreated and restored. By referencing historical photographs, archival documents, and the recovered pieces of the bronze figure, the memorial’s stolen sculpture and honor rolls will be recreated using new plaster molds, and recast in bronze on the original pedestal. The granite sections of the pedestal will be cleaned, the masonry joints will be repointed, and the monument will be reset on a new concrete foundation.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2014

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