By GREGORY J. SCOTT, Design Intervention
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is just eight weeks away, on June 30. The three-day Gettysburg Battle is considered by many historians to be the turning point of the Civil War.
The four-year conflict between the North and South, from 1861 to 1865, has been memorialized by hundreds of small towns, villages and cities across the country through the commissioning, construction and dedication of soldier and sailor monuments.
The City of Lancaster was no exception. On July 4, 1874, Lancaster dedicated its own Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Standing 43 feet tall, the Gothic Revival design utilizes fine-grained Rhode Island granite for the pillar and pedestal, and occupies the exact location where the original Lancaster County Courthouse stood from 1739 to about 1859.
Five hand-carved stone figures define the monument. Four men, representing the infantry, navy, artillery and cavalry, surround the base. The larger-than-life, robed “Genius of Liberty,” replete with body armor, drawn sword and shield, stands atop the pillar facing north. According to legend, this is a deliberate depiction of turning her back to the Southern states. Her twisted rope crown contains five evenly spaced stars.
Lewis Haldy, a Lancaster Civil War veteran and local stonecutter, designed and carved the monument. Fabrication was provided by Batterson, Canfield & Company of Hartford, Conn., reported to be the largest supplier and fabricator of Civil War civic monuments in the United States.
The Patriot Daughters of Lancaster, under the leadership of Rosina Hubley, oversaw fundraising efforts to finance design and construction of the $26,000 monument, which was commissioned in 1872.
The original monument was surrounded by a split-rail fence, but that fence was quickly replaced by a decorative wrought-iron version, with a granite wall enclosure, three years later. The original base later was reduced to half its original dimension of 35 square feet to accommodate traffic patterns and the clearance requirements of motor vehicles.
The Lancaster Soldiers and Sailors Monument remains the centerpiece of Penn Square, and not only marks the epicenter of downtown, but also serves as a constant reminder of the price of freedom.
This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, a local architect with 35 years of national experience in innovation and design. Email GScott@rlps.com.