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Monday, May 31, 2010

Plainfield's War Memorial Flagpole

The placing of a bronze plaque in 1922 in the rotunda of City Hall honoring those who served and died in World War I seems to have been the genesis of the idea of a monument honoring Plainfielders who had given their lives in all past wars.

In June 1925, the Common Council organized a War Memorial Committee with the purpose of drawing up a proposal for such a memorial, to be submitted to the Council at a future date. A number of town notables, as well as several Councillors and veterans of past wars were appointed.

The War Memorial Committee made its report to the Common Council in January of 1926, and in May of that year, a contract was awarded for the construction of a flagpole to be mounted above a bronze sculptural base, the whole sited on a granite plaza.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, which owns the triangular plot at the intersection of East Seventh Street and Watchung and Crescent Avenues, drew up an agreement permitting the city to "erect and maintain" a War Memorial on the site, providing only that the city "keep the plot in good order," and indemnify the church against any liability.

Although the contracts were let, and the manufacture and construction appeared to get under way in a timely fashion -- with dedication set for Armistice Day, November 11, 1926 -- an enormous brouhaha broke out between the central council of the veterans' organizations and the Common Council, dragging into it the minister and trustees of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The source of the controversy? The inscription.

The inscription proposed for the sculptural base is the underlined portion of this selection from the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah, Chapter 2
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
The controversy engendered considerable acrimony among some of the veterans organizations, leading to a much-belated dedication of the monument, all of which has now faded into the remote mists of Plainfield history.

The Memorial Day series--
-- Dan Damon [follow]

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olddoc said...

Does anyone know why the WWI VFW Vets did objected to the inscription and boycotted any ceremonies at the monument? I was a member of teh VFW for a short time but never knew what the old timers were mad about.

Anonymous said...

Hmm --so much for separation of church and state. It's just unnatural! Time WE get it together!

Dan said...

@ 9:19 -- don't know what your point is exactly, but the memorial is a CIVIC monument, not a religious onw. The money was raised by subscription among the veterans and citizens of Plainfield. I do not know if any city money was involved, but there was no mention of same in documents I researched.

The triangle just happens to be owned by Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, which was willing to allow it to be used for this CIVIC purpose. No big deal, no mixing religion and state.

This monument is similar to the one so many of us helped raise funds for that is now on City Hall grounds. It, too, is a CIVIC monument, and the City was willing to have it placed on the city property. The money was raised by subscription from among veterans and friends in Plainfield or who had roots in Plainfield.

meg said...

Does anyone know who designed the bronze the artwork?