Macombs Dam Park

Highbridge Doughboy Statue

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

The Highbridge World War I Memorial, popularly known as the Highbridge Doughboy originally stood proudly at a small park triangle at Ogden and University Avenues in the University Heights or Highbridge section of the Bronx. It honors 21 local servicemen who died while serving their country in World War I.

The monument was commissioned by the Highbridge Regular Democratic Club at a cost of reported $7,500, and was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1923. Following a parade, club president William P. McGuire presented the memorial to the city. “The people of Highbridge certainly did their share to help win the war,” he said. “Out of a population barely exceeding 10,000, 582 men enlisted in their country’s service. That is a record which I feel sure can enable the citizens of this section to hold their heads up with pride.” William J. Flynn, commissioner of public works and chairman of the war memorial committee, unveiled the Doughboy.

The bronze statue depicts a stoic, helmeted soldier in an active pose, his right hand about to hurl a grenade, and his left hand clutching a rifle with extended bayonet blade. It was fabricated by J. W. Fiske Iron Works. Max Hausle, an architect of the old Bronx County Courthouse as well as several park comfort stations is credited with the monument’s design, though the identity of the sculptor remains unknown.

The derivation of the term doughboy remains in question. It was first used by the British in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to describe soldiers and sailors. In the United States, the nickname was coined during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), and was widely popularized during World War I (1914-1918) to refer to infantrymen. After the war, in which Americans saw combat in 1917-18, numerous communities commissioned doughboy statues to honor the local war heroes. The Highbridge Doughboy is one of nine such statues erected in New York City’s parks.

The monument was later moved across the street into a small vest pocket park next to the Washington Bridge, and over the years the park and monument fell into disrepair. The statue itself, like the servicemen it honored, was “battle-tested.” In 1974, the three bronze honor rolls fastened to the sides and rear of the granite pedestal and the frontal dedicatory plaque were stolen, and in 1976 the rifle was also removed by vandals. Around that time the sculpture was toppled, the helmet and arms were badly damaged. The bronze sculpture was then placed in NYC Parks storage for safekeeping for more than four decades.

In 2018, Parks’ Citywide Monuments Conservation Program completed a restoration that included replicating all missing statue components as well as the main dedication plaque. The restored statue was placed in a newly-renovated setting at the gateway to Highbridge adjacent to Yankee Stadium, and rededicated on September 28, 2018, in the centennial year of the World War I armistice.

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