This monument, also known as the Brownsville War Memorial, was sculpted by Charles Cary Rumsey (1879–1922) and dedicated in 1925.
In 1896, landowner Peter L. Vandeveer gave this property, bounded by Legion Street, and Pitkin and East New York Avenues at the junction of Eastern Parkway, to the City of Brooklyn. The “gore,” so called for its triangular shape, took the name Vandeveer Park before being renamed Zion Park in 1911 by the Board of Aldermen, in acknowledgment of the large local Jewish community.
Alexander S. Drescher, chairman of the Citizens Memorial Committee and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Committees of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (Local Boards 82 and 88), petitioned Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner John N. Harman to erect this monument in 1923. He also sought $5,000 worth of site improvements to accommodate the memorial. After delays in financing, the project went forward in 1925.
Architect Henry Beaumont Herts (1871-1933) designed the limestone stele and side pylons. The memorial committee procured Charles Cary Rumsey’s services in 1921 to design two side reliefs of a soldier and sailor and the central motif of a stylized sword-bearing winged victory figure in low relief. The design also included carved Stars of David, and bronze honor rolls listing the names of servicemen from the community who gave their lives during World War I.
The sculptor Rumsey was born in Buffalo, New York, on August 29, 1879. In 1893, he traveled to Paris to study art. Upon returning, he enrolled at the Nichols School in Buffalo, graduating in 1898. He attended Harvard University, graduated in 1902, and in the same year studied at the Colarossi and Julien Academies in Paris, and the Boston School of Fine Arts. In 1906, he settled in Manhattan, and maintained a studio at 55 East 59th Street, soon showing his work in Architectural League and National Sculpture Society exhibitions.
In 1910, Rumsey married Mary Harriman (1881–1934) and continued his active artistic career. He had a particular fascination with animal art; in 1915, he exhibited an equestrian statue at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the World’s Fair in San Francisco, and in 1916, his buffalo hunt frieze was installed on the Manhattan Bridge. In 1917, Rumsey helped organize the Sculptor’s Gallery at East 40th Street in Manhattan. In 1920, he was commissioned to make the classical polychrome friezes for Rice Stadium (destroyed 1989). By 1921, he had completed a preliminary plaster and limestone version of Victory for Zion Park.
Tragically, Rumsey was killed in an automobile accident in 1922, before he had a chance to see his design to fruition. Edmondo Quattrochi, his primary studio assistant since 1911, finished the project. The completed work was dedicated November 1, 1925, by Brooklyn Borough President Joseph A. Guider (1870–1926), Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Edward T. O’Loughlin, and numerous local Jewish and veterans organizations. The sponsors noted, “The design itself does not alone symbolize the guaranteed freedom of our nation for the very names that will be inscribed upon it stand for toleration. The name of Sullivan will follow the name of Solomon, a Jew, a Catholic and a Protestant are recorded in one panel, a Negro’s name is in juxtapostion to that of a white man.”
Over time, the monument has suffered from weathering and vandalism, and the bronze honor rolls have been removed. In 1990, the monument was cleaned, the central bronze tablet reattached, and the inscriptions of the honor rolls incised into the side stone panels. The work was conducted through a $6,000 grant from the Mary Rumsey Foundation under the auspices of the Adopt-A-Monument Program, a joint venture of Parks, the Municipal Art Society and the New York City Art Commission.
Zion Park War Memorial Details
- Sculptor: Charles Cary Rumsey
- Architect: Henry Beaumont Herts
- Description: Wall, higher central section has bas-relief of winged female warrior; two side sections incised with names; on a raised platform, steps; bannisters have medallions, eagle, proper left, star of David, proper right; plaque
- Materials: Bas-relief--Indiana limestone; Plaque--bronze
- Dimensions: H: 13' W: 20'8" D: 3'10"
- Cast: ca. 1925
- Dedicated: November 1, 1925
- Donor: Citizens Memorial Committee and others
- Inscription: TO COMMEMORATE THOSE WHO AT THE CALL OF THEIR COUNTRY, LEFT ALL THAT WAS DEAR. / ENDURED HARDSHIP, FACED DANGER, AND FINALLY PASSED OUT OF SIGHT / OF MEN BY THE PATH OF DUTY AND SACRIFICE GIVING UP / THEIR LIVES THAT OTHERS MIGHT LIVE IN FREEDOM. / LET THOSE WHO COME AFTER SEE TO IT THAT THEIR NAMES NOT BE FORGOTTEN. / BY THE / CITIZENS MEMORIAL COMMITTEE / AND SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MEMORIAL COMMITTEES / OF THE AMERICAN LEGION, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS / AND JEWISH VETERANS OF THE WARS OF THE REPUBLIC. / COMPRISING LOCAL BOARDS 82 TO 88 /