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| || SOLDIERS MONUMENT |
312 Percival Avenue
Dedicated: July 28, 1863
Type: Obelisk of Portland brownstone
Designer: Nelson Augustus Moore
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Kensington, is significant historically because of its claim to be the first Civil War monument in the nation, an assertion which it is difficult to prove or disprove. It does appear to be the first in the four New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. (See INTRODUCTION; information on Vermont and Rhode Island is not at hand.)
The idea for the monument originated with the Reverend Charles B. Hilliard, minister of the Kensington Congregational Church, who supported the Civil War vigorously from his pulpit. Funds were raised by popular subscription, most gifts being in the range of one or two dollars. About one-quarter of those canvassed for support declined, on the grounds that the South should be allowed to secede.
An alternate account of the origin of the monument is given by Nelson Augustus Moore, p. 126, which states that Moore designed, raised the money for, and erected the monument.
Contract for the work was let in March 1863. Stone from the nearby Portland quarries was drawn soon thereafter to the Bacon stone yard on Berlin Street, where the monument was cut. The names were added at a later time. Cost was $350. Dedication occurred July 28, 1863. The Hartford Courant reported that "the attendance...was not so large as it undoubtedly would have been, were the farmers not kept so busy just at this season."
The principal oration was delivered by U.S. Senator Lafayette S. Foster of Norwich, who "showed how the wicked ambition of southern leaders had brought upon our fair land all the horror and suffering we had been called upon to pass through during the past two years."
The 50th-anniversary ceremony held July 26, 1913, was an important civic event, attended by Governor Simeon E. Baldwin, Senator George P. McLean, and officers of the G.A.R. and the Womens Relief Corps. Houses along Main Street and Percival Avenue were elaborately decorated with flags and bunting in the manner traditional for Civil War monument ceremonies. The cannon was unveiled as part of the ceremony. A souvenir badge of a medallion relief of the monument, hung on a tri-colored ribbon, was prepared for the day. A souvenir booklet also was published, in which the claim appears that Kensington's is the "oldest Soldiers Monument in the country."
The monument was built on land belonging to the church. The church maintains the monument, with some assistance from the town. The specific question of whether the monument is owned by the church or the town has, by silent consent of the parties, never been addressed.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Kensington, is significant artistically because it is a seminal design in Civil War monuments and because it is the work of Nelson Augustus Moore. War memorials of any kind were uncommon in 1863. Since the purpose of this memorial was to honor the dead, it is not surprising that Moore choose a familiar cemetery monument form for his design. Dozens of others followed in Connecticut during the following decades.
Nelson Augustus Moore (1824-1902), a Kensington resident, was a painter, sculptor, and photographer. Vose Galleries, Boston, mounted exhibitions of his works in 1966, 1971, and 1990. Moore was a member of the Hudson River School, but eschewed its more dramatic interpretations for local, personal, and humble works. The plainness of the SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Kensington, is consistent with his paintings. He simultaneously carried on a career as a photographer, his best-known photograph being the famous view of Hartford's Charter Oak. Nelson's son, Edwin A. Moore, gave his father's drawings for the Kensington monument to a Berlin library in 1916.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Kensington, is a brownstone obelisk sited on a triangular plot of ground at the intersection of Percival Avenue with Sheldon Street and Robbins Road, close to the Kensington Congregational Church. A circular cast-iron fence, 31 inches high, surrounds the monument at a distance of about five feet. The fence components are elaborate and heavy, in elliptical, S-curve, C-curve and volute shapes. Arrows punctuate the tops of the balusters. The fence was added ca.1873. The base of SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Kensington, consists of two risers, of 9 inches and 19 inches. At the top of the 24-inch die three moldings, an ogee between two toruses, provide transition to the tapered shaft with low pyramidal top.
A cannon was placed near the apex of the triangular plot as part of the 50th-anniversary program in 1913. It is supported on two boulders. Cannon balls which formerly were stacked on the boulders are now set in concrete on the boulders. The piece is a 3" cannon given by the War Department at the request of U.S. Senator George P. McLean of Simsbury. It was delivered with 80 shells. In 1992 the stone was sandblasted, then treated with a "water-repellant masonry sealer." Application of the sealer was repeated in 1993.
Front (northeast) face of base, raised caps in recessed panel:SOLDIERS
Die, above, incised caps:ERECTED TO COMMEMORATE THE DEATH
OF THOSE WHO PERISHED IN SUPPRESSING
THE SOUTHERN REBELLION.
"HOW SLEEP THE BRAVE WHO SINK TO REST
BY ALL THEIR COUNTRY'S WISHES BLEST."
Half way up the shaft:(raised seal of Connecticut)
Southeast face of base, raised caps:CAPT. FRANK A. COLE
WASHINGTON D.C. OCT. 4, 1864.
Shaft:GEORGE W. HORTON
N.O. LA. OCT. 6, 1862.
HENRY F. ALLEN
POCOTALIGO, OCT. 22, 1862.
BIRDSEY J. BECKLEY
FREDERICKSBURG, DEC. 13, 1862
Southwest face of base:(three names)
Shaft:(five names, several with 1864 dates, one 1865)
Northwest face of base:(one name)
Bronze plaque, northeast side of fence, raised caps:FIRST MONUMENT
IN THE UNITED STATES
TO BE DEDICATED
TO THE SOLDIERS OF THE
ERECTED IN 1863
Bronze plaque, east side of fence:THIS PLAQUE PRESENTED TO
THE TOWN OF BERLIN
IN COMMEMORATION OF THE
100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE
BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF BERLIN
MAY 30, 1961
Connecticut Magazine, 6(1900):405.
The Hartford Courant, July 29, 1863; July 26, 1913, p. 20.
Joseph Nathan Kane, Famous First Facts and Records in the United States (New York: Ace Books, 1975), p. 387.
Ethelburt Moore, Ten Generations of Moores (Kensington: Privately published, 1950).
Nelson Augustus Moore (Kensington: Moore Picture Trust, 1994), p. 126.
New Britain Daily Herald, July 26, 1913, p. 20.
"Souvenir....Kensington, Conn." 1913.
Vose Galleries, catalogs of exhibitions (Boston, 1966, 1971, 1990).