Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
This temple-like monument located on a promontory along Riverside Drive at West 89th Street commemorates Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. An elegant example of the City Beautiful movement, it was designed by the Stoughton brothers, engineer Charles W. (1860–1944) and architect Arthur A. Stoughton (1867–1955), who won a public competition with a design inspired by Greek antiquity. It was designated a municipal landmark in 1976.
A cylindrical form of white marble with 12 Corinthian columns, it is capped with richly carved ornament of eagles and cartouches. The design was based upon the ancient Choragic monument of Lysicrates (4th c. BC) in Athens, an iconic form used during the Greek Revival in 19th century America. Standing at 100 feet, it is larger in scale than the relic it imitates. The plinths that stand atop the south stair list the New York volunteer regiments that served during the war, as well as the Union generals and the battles they led. The ornament was sculpted by Paul E. Duboy (better known for his work on the Ansonia). Several features were never realized, including a pathway down to the Hudson and a more developed plaza area to the south of the monument.
Commissioned by the State of New York in 1893, the competition was held in 1897 and the first stone was laid in January 1900, with Governor Theodore Roosevelt officiating. On Memorial Day 1902 (then called ‘Decoration Day’), the monument was unveiled following a parade of Civil War veterans up Riverside Drive to the site. For many years the project was delayed because the City could not agree on a site for the monument. The initial location at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street was vetoed by the newly formed Municipal Art Society, followed by a host of other suggestions – Union Square and the Battery among them – each one supported by their own loyal factions and reasons. Eventually it was sited along the axis of Riverside Drive, looking south and out toward the Hudson River, a more diminutive companion piece to Grant’s Tomb located two miles north. By the First World War, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument had become part of a promenade of classically-inspired monuments that punctuate the rim of Riverside Drive, set against the naturalistic backdrop of Riverside Park and the river beyond.
In the early 1960’s, the City spent over $1 million in extensive repairs to the monument, including a new roof. Now fifty years later, it awaits funding to repair loosened joints, chipped stone, and the damage generally wrought by time if not vandalism.
For decades the monument was the terminus of the Memorial Day Parade and each year hosts an annual Memorial Day observance.
Directions to Riverside Park
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