Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch - History
As was the custom of this time period, a competition was held to decide on a design for a memorial to honor the 4,000 men from the city of Hartford who served in the Civil War, and the 400 men who died serving the Union. None of the designs entered met the qualifications completely, especially the budget. An architect named George Keller, known nationally for his Civil War designs, wanted to create one for his hometown of Hartford. Keller was put out by the fact that considering that this was his specialty, and he was a resident of Hartford, no one had asked him to contribute a design. It was then that the secretary of the committee, Sherman W. Adams, suggested that to get an invitation Keller should just ask for one. A few days after submitting a letter expressing his interest, he received a formal invite which instigated the design of the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch located in Bushnell Park, Hartford, Connecticut.
George Keller had no problems designing an appropriate memorial while staying within the budget, proving that he was the man for the job all along. One of the earliest monuments to use Civil War in its lettering, the arch combines various styles with an unusual design. Youll notice this as you see the medieval towers with conical roofs, monumental gothic arch, and classical sculptured frieze. The structure is 116 high and uses brownstone and terracotta. Its located on the northern edge of Bushnell Park in downtown Hartford, and is the very first permanent triumphal arch in America.
Symbols on the structure identify the infantry, cavalry, artillery, and naval forces. There are crossed rifles for the infantry and crossed sabres for cavalry on the south, and an anchor for the navy and crossed cannons for artillery on the north. For its dedication ceremony on September 17, 1886, a man named Albert Entress carved six statues: a farmer, blacksmith, mason, student, carpenter, and an African American man breaking his chains of bondage and holding a slate inscribed with the alphabet. The memorial was rehabilitated from 1986-88 for the price of $1.5 million.
The lettering located on terracotta tablets on the south-eastern part of the east tower, and the south-western part of the west tower reads:
OF THE MEN OF HARTFORD
AND IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO FELL
ON LAND AND SEA
IN THE WAR FOR THE UNION
THEIR GRATEFUL TOWNSMEN
HAVE RAISED THIS MEMORIAL