After 50 years, two plaques have been restored to a statue in Edgewood Park. Neighbors gathered at the statue next to the ranger station Sunday for an unveiling. Stephanie FitzGerald of Friends of Edgewood Park contributed the following write-up about how it happened and these photos from the event.
In 1923 Spanish-American War Veterans petitioned the New Haven Board of Finance to appropriate $5,000 to erect a monument in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ending of that war. The Marine statue was sculpted by New Haven resident Michel Martino in 1924 and cast in bronze at the American Art Foundry in New York. It was dedicated in 1926. Sometime in the 1970s two plaques on the front of the base were stolen. The cast figure was restored in 2008 as part of a New Haven initiative to clean and repair its public memorials.
When the statue was dedicated in 1926, a small bronze plaque was placed on the base of the statue with the words: This memorial is dedicated by the City of New Haven in commemoration of her Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who volunteered their services during the Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, China Relief Expedition, April 21st 1898 – July 4th, 1902.
Earlier, in 1913, sculptor Charles Keck sculpted a Maine Memorial Tablet, which was cast by the Jno. Williams Foundry from metal from the U.S.S. Maine. The warship exploded and sank in Havana Harbor thus igniting the war in 1899. The ship was later raised and the U.S. Congress ordered 1,000 plaques cast and distributed across the nation, including to New Haven’s Goffe Street Armory. We don’t know when one of the tablets was placed on the Marine statue or how it was authorized. A 1950s New Haven Register photograph shows the tablet on the statue base, but the 1926 Parks Department Annual Report does not.
Several years ago Edgewood Park neighbor Carolyn Kone approached the Friends of Edgewood Park and said she would like replace the missing plaques as a gift to her husband, Allan Rubenstein. There were no good pictures of the statue with its plaques. Stephanie FitzGerald and Katrina Clark researched at the New Haven Free Public Library and at the New Haven Museum library. We found some conflicting information, but finally located three documents to help us: the 1926 Parks Dept. Annual Report, a 1950 mimeographed booklet “Memorials and Historical Points of Interest” published by the New Haven Parks Commission, and a blurry photograph from a 1950s New Haven Register. We consulted David Moser, New Haven’s landscape architect, who recommended Francis Miller and his company, Conserve Art. They designed the smaller plaque, using the text we provided, and created an aluminum mold.
Conserve Art had access to a mold for the U.S.S. Maine Tablet and didn’t have to make one. Replicas were then cast in plastic with green coloration to match the historic statue and attached to the granite base. So today we celebrate the restoration of the two plaques missing for about 50 years!
Funding for the restoration of the plaques was provided by Carolyn Kone, New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees, Elm City Parks Conservancy, and Friends of Edgewood Park.
Background History: The Spanish–American War was fought between the United States and Spain. Hostilities began in the aftermath of an explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898 leading to United States intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war ended that same year with American acquisition of Spain’s Pacific possessions which led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately in the Philippine–American War, ending in 1902. The China Relief Expedition was undertaken by the United States Armed Forces to rescue United States citizens, European nationals, and other foreign nationals during the latter years of the Boxer Rebellion, which lasted from 1898 to 1901.