Saturday, July 21, 2007

Greenpoint War Memorial in McGolrick Park

When my daughter was a toddler in the 1990s, my favorite park in Greenpoint was McGolrick, which had modern playground equipment (unlike the then-decrepit park on Franklin St.) and trees large enough to offer shade (unlike the then-scorching McCarren Park playground). McGolrick Park was an oasis, set in a quiet residential neighborhood far away from the traffic and bustle of McGuinness Blvd. and Manhattan Avenue.

The winged allegorical figure of Carl Heber's Greenpoint War Memorial has not found life in McGolrick so serene, even though she strides along bearing a palm frond and a laurel branch, symbols of peace and victory. (See Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan #31, on Sherman.) According to the NYC Parks Dept. website, the base of the memorial was damaged in 1962, when Christmas trees placed around it caught fire. In 1975 vandals stole parts of the palm frond, and a year later toppled the statue off its base. It was repaired as part of the renovation of McGolrick Park in 1985. Of course, this was not the only monument that suffered during New York's financial woes in the 1970s. Lederer's All Around the Town: A Walking Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in New York City, published in 1975, is full of monuments defaced with grime and graffiti.

The Greenpoint War Memorial was dedicated in 1923 to residents of the neighborhood who had served in the First World War. The inscription on the front reads: "To the living and the dead heroes of Greenpoint who fought in the World War because they loved America, revered its ideals under God, and supported its institutions and gave their all that our government shall not perish from the earth.” On the other sides of the base are inscribed names of major battles: Argonne, Somme, Chateau Thierry.

For more on changes in war memorials from the Civil War to the First World War, listen to my Battery Park podcast.

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