Lou’s View – March 9, 2016

The Civil War Monument

by Lou Bernard

It stands in the center of the city, like something that someone left standing there in the city. Hell. I’m not so good with metaphors. Or is that an analogy? I don’t know; I wasn’t paying much attention in high school. But I’m not writing about high school right now. I’m writing about the Civil War Monument.

The monument was built in 1908 to honor the Civil War veterans, of which there were about twenty left at that point. It was unveiled on October 15, 1908. It was made of a hundred and seven parts, roughly a third of your average Ikea item. Oh, and originally it was at the corner of Main Street and Bellefonte Avenue, right where Triangle Park now stands.

It’s composed of the base, which has the date and some inspirational quotes and facts carved on it. (There were 1,938 Clinton County men in the Civil War, if you’re interested.) Four pillars support the soldiers on them. These are a sailor, an infantryman, a cavalryman, and an artilleryman, with the colorbearer overlooking them all on the top.

The Historic Resource Survey Form claims that the monument’s designer was unknown. Fortunately, you haven’t asked the Historic Resource Survey Forms; you asked me. I don’t like that “unknown” bit, and an article in the Clinton Republican from April 29, 1908 says that the design was done by Worden Brothers, of Batavia, New York.

There are symbols carved on the middle pillar, about head level to the soldiers. A diamond, a heart, a moon—You almost expect to see happy faces as you walk around. These are the emblems from the local Civil War units, and it took me most of a summer to figure that out. I got curious a while back and began looking into it. When I called City Hall to ask, I was told,”There’s a guy at the library who knows a lot of history. Maybe he can tell you.”

“No,” I sighed. “He doesn’t know. He’s really good-looking, though.”

The monument has been something of a centerpiece to Lock Haven’s society for over a century. There have been events based around it, such as the 150th anniversary of Lock Haven’s founding, in 1983—The monument was basically the centerpiece of that summer. The Clinton County Times ran a whole series of newspaper articles containing interviews with the stone soldiers. To be clear, I don’t mean interviews with men who posed so that they could be carved—The Times claimed to have interviewed the sculptures themselves. They had some interesting views on women voting, and the 1918 flood, and some fishing tips to share.

In 1969, two important things happened: I was born, and the city embarked on the Bellefonte Avenue Redevelopment Project. (One of these things may have gotten a bit more press than the other.) This involved hiring a construction firm from Williamsport to disassemble the monument and move it, piece by piece, to its current location at the corner of West Church Street and Bellefonte Avenue, making the previous space into Triangle Park.

They took the thing apart a moved it about a block to the southwest. Then they reassembled it in the place it stands now, promptly getting it wrong. It hadn’t actually dawned on the construction firm that those soldiers belonged on specific corners; they just placed them pretty much randomly. By the time anyone realized it, the whole thing had been put in place, and it was too late to do any adjusting of it. City council immediately convened to decide if this constituted reason to not pay the firm.

Seriously, go and check sometime. Find an old photo of that monument, of which there are maybe a million. Compare it to the current monument, within sight of City Hall. You’ll see that the stone soldiers don’t quite match up; they’re all staring off in different directions now.

I wonder how they feel about that. It would be cool if I could interview them, just like the Clinton County Times used to. I tried talking it over with them, but they didn’t say much. Apparently, the stone soldiers just aren’t as friendly and outgoing as they used to be.