Our county’s great treasure: the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
When our nation went to war with itself in 1861, as North fought South, Bay Village and Westlake (Dover Township at that time) sent its sons to fight for the union, as did every community in the country.
While these men, and others, are honored every year on Memorial Day, those who served in that “War of Brothers” from our county are honored every day with the historic tribute to them that stands on Cleveland’s Public Square – the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.
All of us who grew up in this area have seen and or visited it as it proudly stands in the heart of Greater Cleveland, artistically reminding us of the sacrifices made for our freedom in every war. This unique and wonderful monument – perhaps the finest in the country - was completed in 1884 and features a 125-foot spire made of polished black Quincy stone with six bronze bands listing the names of 30 battles in which soldiers from Cuyahoga County fought. It’s surrounded at its base by a Memorial Room and walkway of Medina red sandstone.
A statue of the Goddess of Freedom, holding her Shield of Freedom, stands proudly atop the spire as if to thanks those who, as President Lincoln said, “gave the last full measure of devotion” to their country. Four realistic bronze statues depict, in heroic size battle scenes of the four principal branches of the service in the Civil War: Infantry, Artillery, Cavalry and the Navy – one on each side of the monument.
The interior of the Memorial Room, constructed of rough-finished, light gray granite and light brown Amherst sandstone, features four bronze relief sculptures honoring The Women's Soldiers' and Sailors' Aid Society; The Beginning of the War in Ohio; The Emancipation of the Slaves, and The End of the War at City Point, Va.
Each is a special work of art. Especially moving is the figure of Lincoln holding up slave chains in his hand as he frees them. (I often hear, when talking about the monument, “I didn’t know you could go inside.” Yes, you can, and it’s well worth the visit. The Memorial Room is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Engraved on each wall of the Memorial Room are the names of everyone from Cuyahoga County who served our nation during the Civil War. Some of your ancestors may be listed there. These tributes are updated with new names as other veterans of that terrible conflict have been identified over the years. The 116-year history of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument begins again over the next few weeks as a series of special events marks its Grand Reopening after two million dollars in extensive renovations made to it over the last two years have been completed, restoring its art to its original glory.
These events are:
- Friday, June 4, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. – A Grand Reopening Reception (Hors d’oeuvres, wine and other beverages plus live entertainment) featuring guided tours of the refurbished structure by the architects and contractors and artists involved in the work. Reservations for the reception may be made by calling 216-621-3746. Cost is $30.00 per ticket to support the Monument.
- Saturday, June 5, at 11:00 a.m. – The Grand Reopening Ceremony at the Monument featuring music, color and pageantry. Governor Strickland and other officials are among the invited guests. This is free and open to the public.
- Saturday, June 5, at 1:00 p.m. – The Grand Reopening Luncheon at the Old Stone Church on Public Square. The featured speaker will be Harold Holzer, Co-Chair of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and our country’s preeminent Lincoln scholar. Reservations for this luncheon may be made by calling 216-621-3746. Cost is $35.00 per ticket to support the Monument.
- Friday, July 2 – A Cleveland Orchestra concert at the Monument to celebrate the Fourth of July, Civil War style.
Memorial Day will also be celebrated as usual at the Monument with a special program honoring those who died in service to our country on May 30 beginning at noon. You may learn more about the Monument and these events on its website, www.soldiersandsailors.com. I hope to see you there.
Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.