"Monuments are history made visible. They
are shrines that celebrate the ideals, achievements and heroes that existed
in one moment in time. … The best of them are redemptive, allowing us to
understand the past in a way that is meaningful in the present." In her
sweeping new book, "Monuments," author and preservationist Judith Dupre
examines America's extraordinary history through its public monuments. The
book contains descriptions of almost 40 monuments of varying composition,
themes and historical context.
Although she includes the nation's most celebrated monuments (the Liberty
Bell, Alamo, Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, etc.), Dupre also
identifies some lesser-known monuments that are equally important to our
national identity. Here's a look at three of those monuments:
Freedom Schooner Amistad
Location: New Haven, Conn.
Dedication: replica 2000
Designer: unknown; restoration by Mystic Seaport Construction
Commemoration: The La Amistad revolt and Supreme Court decision of 1841
The saga of the slave ship La Amistad is a unique episode in American
history. Although the original schooner was lost somewhere in the Caribbean,
a seaworthy version has been reconstructed and represents an "interactive
monument, as well as one that floats, illuminates how lost pieces of history
can be retrieved, redressed and retold to new generations."
In 1839, 53 Africans were captured for the slave trade and shipped to
Havana, Cuba. Upon their sale they were transferred to the vessel La Amistad
for delivery to a Spanish plantation. After three days at sea, the Africans
revolted, seized control of the ship and were eventually caught by the
American Navy. Their ensuing trial on charges of murder and piracy came
before the U.S. Supreme Court, with representation on their behalf by former
President John Quincy Adams. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the
Africans, and they later returned to their homeland in 1841.
The recreated La Amistad was built using 19th-century shipbuilding
techniques and was launched in a ceremony on March 26, 2000. According to
Dupre, the La Amistad incident was "one of the first human rights cases
successfully argued at the Supreme Court level on behalf of people of
Irish Hunger Memorial
Location: New York City
Designer: Brain Tolle
Commemoration: Irish famine and migration, 1845-1852
One of the most prolific migrations to North America took place between
1845 and 1852. "An Gorta Mor," or the Great Hunger, was a terrible famine
that affected the European continent, particularly the island nation of
Ireland. An estimated 1.5 million Irish citizens left the misery and
starvation for a more promising life in the United States. This migration
and the subsequent establishment of the Irish immigrants in America had an
indelible impact on the nation's history and culture.
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According to Dupre, the Irish Hunger Memorial is "a veritable
laboratory for multiple contemporary commemorative concerns. … It
offers moments of poignancy and insight."
Part of the monument's significance is its recreation of the
Irish countryside and architecture within the urban landscape of New
York City. The designer combined a standing stone monument with a
two-room stone cottage in an open field. The cantilevering design of
the landscape leads to a wedge-shaped base that resembles the
western cliffs found on the Irish coastline.
As visitors tour the monument, they arrive at a location that
provides a moment of great inspiration -- an unobstructed view of
the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Dupre writes, "This
connection is made between the famine and immigration, the old and
the new, despair and faith, and sums up the journey from Ireland to
Texas A&M University Bonfire Memorial
Location: College Station, Texas
Designers: Overland Partners Architects
Commemoration: Those who died in the 1999 bonfire collapse.
On Nov. 18, 1999, 12 Texas A&M students were killed when the logs
stacked for a traditional bonfire collapsed. The five-story bonfire
was a ritual that began in 1909 and was associated with the annual
football game with the University of Texas.
Today the monument erected in 2004 "conjures a mythic landscape
that evokes fundamental ideas about the nature of sacred ground." It
consists of three parts: Tradition Plaza, the transition between the
public parking and the monument; History Walk, a 300-foot gravel
path connecting the entrance plaza and the central ring; and the
Spirit Ring, the monument's centerpiece and location of the
accident. A black granite compass stands at the exact position of
the bonfire's center pole and is inscribed with the date and time of
The effect of touring the monument "draws the visitor into the
larger cosmic circle. … There is a palpable, physical sensation of
having left ordinary time and entered an eternal dimension."
"Monuments" is an informative study of the role of monuments in
our society and their impact on the American psyche. Accordingly,
this book is about life; in fact, the book, "tells the stories of
real people, the ordinary and the renowned, whose lives, though
immortalized, exist fully in the mind and heart." This book is
recommended to anyone interested in these physical expressions of
art, history and humanity.
[Text from file received
from Richard Sumrall,
Lincoln Public Library District]