Madison Square, New York (Part 2)

Eternal Light FlagpoleWe’ll start our second post looking at the monuments in New York’s Madison Square Park (Part 1 is here) with the Eternal Light Memorial Flagpole on the Fifth Avenue side of the park.

The monument honors residents who served in World War I. A dedication on the south face of the flagpole’s ornate base reads, “Erected to commemorate the first homecoming of the victorious Army and Navy of these United States, officially received by the city of New York on this site Anno Domini MCMVXIII (1918).”

The east face has been inscribed with the conclusion of the national anthem, and the north face bears a dedication “In memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice for the triumph of the free peoples of the world.” The west face describes the perpetually lit star atop the flagpole as “An eternal light, an inspiration and a promise of enduring peace.” The dedication also provides the November 11, 1923, date of the star’s lighting.

Eternal Light FlagpoleThe base is also inscribed with the locations of notable World War I battlefields.

The original wooden flagpole was replaced with an aluminum version in 1976, and the star was restored and relit in 2002.

The Eternal Light monument was designed by architect Thomas Hastings, one of the designers of the New York Public Library’s main building.

William Jenkins Worth

On the other side of Fifth Avenue, a granite obelisk marks the grave of William Jenkins Worth, a Mexican War general who died in 1849 from cholera while commanding military forces in Texas.

Eternal Light FlagpoleThe obelisk, in a plaza known as Worth Square formed by the three-way intersection of Fifth Avenue, Broadway and 23rd Street, was dedicated in 1857. (Worth had been buried temporarily in Brooklyn before being moved to the Manhattan monument.) It is the second-oldest monument in Manhattan (an 1856 equestrian statue of George Washington in Times Square is the oldest) and, along with Grant’s Tomb, one of only two monuments in the city holding the remains of the person being honored.

The south face of the obelisk features a bas-relief depiction of the general on his horse, and an elaborate trophy with crossed cannons, armor, two eagles, flags and a variety of weapons.

The east face has the Latin inscription “Ducit amor patriae” (Love of country leads (me)).

Eternal Light FlagpoleThe north face bears a plaque reading, “Under this monument lies the body of William Jenkins Worth, born in Hudson, N.Y., March 1, 1794, died in Texas, May 7, 1849.

The west face bears the dedication date along with the exhortation to “Honor the Brave.”

All four faces of the monument’s shaft list significant battles or postings from Worth’s career.

The monument was designed by Hartford’s James Batterson, whose firm supplied a large number of Civil War monuments in Connecticut.

The umbrellas and tables in the plaza in front of the monument are part of a market and food court that runs through November.

Chester A. Arthur

Returning to the northeast corner of Madison Square Park, we find a statue honoring Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president of the United States. The 1899 monument depicts Arthur standing with his left index finger holding his place in a book.

William Jenkins Worth monumentThe monument was designed by George Edwin Bissell, who was also responsible for Civil War monuments in Waterbury, Salisbury and other Connecticut municipalities.

Arthur, a protege of Roscoe Conkling (also honored in Madison Square Park), served as vice president under James Garfield and became president after Garfield’s assassination in 1881. Arthur had split with Conkling over political patronage disagreements, and Arthur’s anti-patronage reforms would help lead to the civil service system.

Arthur was a native of northern Vermont, and the fact that his parents owned a farm on the Canadian side of the border led to rumors and speculation that Arthur had been born outside of the United States, and was thus ineligible to serve as president.

23rd Street Fire

A plaque mounted on the outside wall of a hair salon across 23rd Street from Madison Square Park honors 12 New York firefighters who died in a 1966 drug store fire. The incident marked the second-largest loss of life for the department, behind only the 9/11 tragedy.

William Jenkins Worth monument

William Jenkins Worth monument

William Jenkins Worth monument

Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur

23rd Street Fire Plaque
23rd Street Fire Plaque

Madison Square Park

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