Saturday, November 22, 2014

Monument Square, Lone Fir

Our next adventure takes us back to SE Portland's Lone Fir Cemetery, but we aren't looking at headstones this time. Instead we're taking a look at an obscure war memorial located in the middle of the cemetery. This was built circa 1903 as a Civil War memorial, organized by the Grand Army of the Republic, the main war veterans' organization. As this was not long after the Spanish-American War, the memorial also includes nods to the other conflicts, including, unusually, the Indian Wars. (Although given the date, it was probably only intended to honor the white, not the Indian, side of the conflict.)

Planning for the memorial began in 1901-1902, and it was dedicated on Memorial Day 1903. It wasn't actually complete at dedication, though, as the statue on top had yet to arrive. So a second grand ceremony was held in October for the unveiling of the statue. That article refers to the surrounding area as "Monument Square", and mentions that it was being dedicated or deeded as a public park. I'm not sure what that means, exactly, since PortlandMaps shows the area as legally part of the cemetery, not a separate parcel. The name "Monument Square" seems to have fallen out of use over the next decade, and doesn't occur in the Oregonian after 1916. But as far as I know that's still the legal, official name for the place, so that's what I'm going with as a post title.

Metro's 2008 "Existing Conditions & Recommendations Report" for the cemetery calls the area "War Memorial Park", and describes it:

The cemetery’s 1944 amended plat map designates the area around the Soldiers Memorial as a public park. The existing area of this delineated park contains the classic single monolith Soldier’s Memorial, three donor benches, and a later addition concrete slab that is currently being used for funeral services. The Soldier’s Memorial is made of granite with a bronze statue and bronze plaques. It is in stable condition, although the soil appears to have eroded away at the base, exposing some of the foundation in places.

The memorial was designed by local architect Delos D. Neer, who's best known for a number of historic county courthouses around the state, including the landmark Benton County Courthouse in Corvallis.

Details are sketchy about the statue on top. An article about the design simply mentions that it was bought from an unnamed eastern firm, which created a special model to the city's specifications. So there may or may not be other identical or similar copies out there, and it's hard to be sure because we don't know the firm or artist.

I had previously been under the impression this was a Spanish-American War memorial, and I think I've said something to that effect in a couple of earlier posts, I think in the context of marveling at how many Spanish-American War memorials Portland ended up with, like the Soldier Monument in Lownsdale Square, and the Battleship Oregon memorial in Waterfront Park. So I may have to go back and fix those older posts now. I also asserted once that the pair of Ft. Sumter cannons in Lownsdale Square was the only Civil War memorial in town, and obviously that isn't quite true either.

Miscellaneous items concerning the memorial from around the net:

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