Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brooklyn's War Memorials II

Just a short note before moving on to the next group of memorials: at the end of this post you may link to a map showing all the locations covered in Brooklyn War Memorials I and II.


A bit sad, too, is Zion Triangle, a dreary, cracked concrete covered sliver of park at the intersection of East New York Avenue and Pitkin Avenue near the northern edge of Brownsville, just down the hill from Eastern Parkway. It didn’t exactly help to lift my spirits that the day I visited was chilly and cloudy and that there is a lot of construction equipment parked along the East New York Avenue side.

It’s hard to tell whether anyone takes particular care of the memorial. I would guess not. But the general area looks clean and swept and the little shrubbery nearby looks trimmed. There are park benches along both sides so it’s no doubt kept clean for the use of the neighborhood. But it doesn’t look like the kind of place where anyone is going to leave the kind of red, white, and blue wreathes that I saw in front of the Fighting Doughboy. Then again, many monuments are decorated on Veterans Day and Memorial Day even if at no other time of the year, and this one may be.

But it’s too bad that it’s not better cared for because the names of the 92 Brownsville men memorialized are still clear and legible on both sides of the monument and surely their memories deserve some respect.

As the name of the park indicates, most though not all the men memorialized were Jewish (though the park name came before the monument). The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn mentions that at the turn of the 20th century Brownsville was called the “Jerusalem of America.” And one of the sponsors of the memorial was the Jewish Veteran of the Wars of the Republic. The other groups involved were the Citizens Memorial Committee, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The limestone memorial occupies one entire end of the park and is approached by broad shallow steps; the space in front is flanked by two walls about a foot high. The central portion of the monument shows, in bas-relief, a winged female figure brandishing a sword and shield. Inscribed on the limestone walls on either side of the central figure are the names of the men honored.

Facing out on one of the small walls is carved the Star of David; on the other side is the Great Seal of the United States, both in pretty good shape considering that the memorial was unveiled in 1925, but limestone is said to stand up well to exposure.

It looks like there might have been some kind of upright pillar or post on either corner at the front but all that remains on one side is a stub and nothing on the other side.

Park Slope

An ideal location for a war memorial is occupied by the larger than life bronze figure of a charging soldier in front of the 14th Regiment Armory on Eighth Avenue at 14th Street in Park Slope. It dates from 1923 and is dedicated to the men of the 14th Infantry who were engaged in the war.

I like the medieval castle architecture of the typical armory and it provides a perfect setting for a statue like this, but see one armory and you’ve pretty much seen them all. The Park Slope building isn’t bad as armories go, not as overwhelming as others I’ve seen around Brooklyn. It fits the neighborhood well.

If the inscriptions sound a bit high flown and poetic it’s because they’re from poems entitled “Marco Bozzaris” (Strike for your altars) by Fitz-Greene Halleck, a now mostly forgotten 19th century American poet who was known in his time as the American Byron; and The Lays of Ancient Rome (And how can man die better) by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Carroll Gardens

Carroll Park, between Court and Smith Streets in Carroll Gardens boasts an impressive monument dedicated to 187 men from that district who lost their lives in the war. It consists of a tall granite shaft faced with four bronze plaques.

One plaque features a sailor, another a soldier, and the other two sides feature the names of the memorialized men. It was erected in 1921 by the Memorial Committee of the 8th Assembly District.

It is an imposing monument but brought down to size by it’s setting, the wide plaza surrounding it and the old growth trees towering over it. The plaques were designed by Eugene H. Morahan.

Downtown Brooklyn

A simple granite monument stands outside McLaughlin Park at the corner of Tillary Street and Flatbush Avenue near the approach to the Manhattan Bridge.

It features an eagle with spread wings carved into the surface of the stone and the names of sixty nine men inscribed on the front and rear. It was erected by the Seawanhaka Democratic Club in 1919. It’s a clean, unassuming memorial set back slightly from the street and flanked by two rows of upended artillery shells, an interesting touch.


Memorial Gore (formerly Woodpoint Gore), is another splendid little sliver of land where Bushwick Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Maspeth Avenue, Humboldt Street, and Woodpoint Road collide and fight it out among themselves in Williamsburg. As apt as it sounds for a war memorial, this isn’t the gore of Patriotic Gore, blood and gore, or even Al Gore. Gore in this case comes from an Old English word “gara” meaning just a triangular piece of land There is also Cuyler Gore in Fort Greene, a very pleasant park despite the name.

This isn’t really my favorite among all these memorials. For one, it’s in a very inconvenient place, isolated in the middle of some very heavily trafficked streets and not easy to get to. No matter where I was standing one line of traffic always seemed to have a green light so I couldn't cross.

And when you get over to it, it’s still inaccessible. Most of the other memorials, even if fenced in, let you get close enough to them at least to read any inscriptions, This one is placed just far enough away from each side, and behind iron fences and shrubbery just high enough, to pretty much block any good view. The only way I could get any shots was to wrap the camera cord around my wrist, stick my arms through the fence, try to hold the camera straight, and hope for the best.

And I’m just not crazy about that triangular column with the globe with the smaller globe with the eagle. It reminds me of a geometry exercise or a child's toy.

Still, all of that no doubt helped to keep it in pristine condition. And it is still there, something you can’t say about Novelli's work in Saratoga Square Park. It was erected in 1921 to memorialize the “patriotism and devotion of the men of the 13th Assembly District,” who served in the war in 1917-1918. The names of 83 men are inscribed on the shaft. The sculptors were the Piccirilli Bros.

More after my next foray out into this beautiful borough. Maybe I will wait until after Veterans Day to see which monuments were decorated for the occasion.

P.S. Still no crosses, Justice Scalia.

A map of the locations in Brooklyn War Memorials I & II