Williams Park, New London

New London honors Nathan Hale and veterans of recent wars with a trio of monuments in its Williams Park.

The Nathan Hale statue near the center of the Broad Street park is a 1935 copy of an 1890 statue in New York’s City Hall Park. The statue features Hale, a Connecticut schoolteacher and Continental spy who was hanged in 1776 by British forces at the age of 21, standing atop a round marble base with ropes binding his arms and legs.

An inscription on the front (southwest) face of the monument reads, “Nathan Hale, born in Coventry, Connecticut, June 6, 1755. A schoolmaster in New London, a captain in the Continental Army who resigned his life [as] a sacrifice to his country’s liberty at New York, Sept. 22d 1776.”

The base is also inscribed with Hale’s reported last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The New London statue is a copy of a statue by Frederick William MacMonnies, who many other works include the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and a statue of Charles Lindberg in a Harvard art museum. The text on the base of the New York edition, which was designed by Stanford White, omits the references to Coventry and New London.

The New London version was cast in 1934 as part of the celebration of Connecticut’s tercentenary in 1935. New London was chosen because Hale had taught school in a small schoolhouse immediately before his service in the American Revolution (the schoolhouse now stands downtown, not far from the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s monument).

Williams Park also honors veterans with a monument featuring a tall stand of shrubbery near the southeast side of the park. The monument, dedicated in 1961 by the Jewish War Veterans, also includes a granite marker inscribed, “Gratefully dedicated to those who gave their lives in the service of our country in order to preserve its ideals of liberty and democracy.”

The middle of the southwest side of the park (along Broad Street) features New London’s monument to its World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. The central section of the stone monument lists nearly 125 residents killed in World War II. The left and right sections honor Korea and Vietnam veterans, and both plaques are inscribed with a dedication reading. “This memorial is dedicated to those who served when the call of their country was heard. Self was forgotten. Their deeds and efforts shall never be forgotten.”

Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Inventories Catalog

One thought on “Williams Park, New London”

  1. Nice writeup. The monument was a gift of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. We maintain both Nathan Hale Schoolhouses where he taught in East Haddam and New London.

    Stephen Shaw
    Property Steward, CTSSAR

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