One hundred and forty years ago, a group of Civil War veterans met at Case Hall in Cleveland to discuss plans for one of the most transcendent Civil War memorials in the nation.
Fifteen years later, President William McKinley dedicated the finished Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, which honors the 9,000 people of Cuyahoga County who served in the Civil War.
With over 100 tons of cast bronze, standing 125-feet high, the monument’s unique art and architecture remains a present-day reminder of the patriotic virtues American’s value to this day.
Below, we provide a brief history, as well as highlight several key design features of this monumental tribute that is still a focal point of Cleveland’s Public Square.
History of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument
In May of 1888, the Cuyahoga County Soldier's and Sailor's Union unanimously approved a proposal to erect this massive monument. Two years later on August 25, 1891, construction began with lead architect Levi Scofield at the helm.
Although Scofield was the head architect, a committee of 12 former soldiers and sailors were responsible for the design. The committee voted on whether they wanted the monument designed as a shaft or as a memorial hall. The vote was split, resulting in the decision to include both styles.
Public taxes helped fund $270,000 of the total $280,000 cost of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.
A few years later on July 4, 1894, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument opened to the public. This long-anticipated celebration featured a parade over five miles long and an opening address made by McKinley.
“What does this monument mean? It means the immortal principle of patriotism. It means sacrifices for the country we love. It means not only love of country, but love of liberty!”
— William McKinley
July 4, 1894
Designing the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
The monument consists of a 110-foot black Quincy granite shaft topped with a 15-foot bronze “Goddess of Freedom.” Fitted on a square base with granite blocks trimmed in sandstone, the shaft sits on top of the memorial building that houses the names of the veterans and bronze busts of the officers killed in action.
Surrounding the exterior of the base are four groupings of bronze sculptures illustrating various battle scenes. These groupings represent the main armed services:
Infantry Bronze Group
Calvary Bronze Group
Artillery Bronze Group
Navy Bronze Group
Inside the memorial is the tablet room that contains lists of Cuyahoga County residents who served in the Civil War, as well as four bronze sculptures representing the:
- The End of the War—The Peacemakers at City Point
- Emancipation of the Slave
- Beginning of the War in Ohio
- The Women’s Soldiers and Sailors Aid Society
End of War
Emancipation of the Slave
Beginning of the War in Ohio
The Women's Soldiers and Sailors Aid Society
In 2008, the city spent two years and $2 million restoring the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Following the restoration, the monument was reopened to the public and is open for visitation year-round.
Interesting Facts About the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
While the outside appearance of this vast monument is enough to marvel at, there are several interesting facts about its design and construction that is more than meets the eye.
Levi T. Scofield
Levi T. Scofield, the renowned Cleveland architect who designed the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, was also a major proponent of the monument and even provided all of his professional services free of charge.
He also designed other historical landmarks, including the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, which was featured in the film, The Shawshank Redemption, and the Kimpton Schofield Hotel in Cleveland.
The Goddess of Freedom
Capping the top of the 125-foot monument is a bronze statue of the Goddess of Freedom. She stands holding a sword in her right hand and a shield in her left. The statue is 15-feet tall and is rumored to have been modeled by Mrs. Scofield, the sculptor’s wife.
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is built on top of underground catacombs that add to the structural integrity of the piece. The system of circular tunnels was needed to distribute the weight of hundreds of tons of black granite, bronze statues and the 125-foot-tall column.
Of the 9,000 names engraved on the walls, only 20 are African Americans. However, an estimated 180,000 African Americans served in the Civil War.
Thanks to the work of some Ohio high school students, the names of more than 100 African American troops from Cuyahoga County have been or will be added to the monument.
The Bronze Doors
A pair of bronze doors are mounted at the north and south entrances of the monument. Each door has three bronze panels with a decorative handle bar fixed between the lower two panels. The doors do not have any hinges. They are set with pivots in bronze sockets fitted into the stonework and the locks are constructed the same as bank safes.
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