The Marquis de Lafayette memorial, at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Lafayette Street, stands on a traffic island across from the State Capitol building.
A plaque added to the east side of the monument’s base in 1957 bears Lafayette’s birth and death dates, and an inscription describing him as “A true friend of liberty, who served as a major general in the Continental Army with ‘all possible zeal, without any special pay or allowances’ until the American colonists secured their freedom, and whose frequent visits to this state as aide to Washington as liaison officer with supporting French troops, and in the pursuit of freedom, are gratefully remembered.”
Lafayette came to America as a 19-year-old in late 1776, and served alongside Washington. During the war, he returned to France and helped secure that nation’s military and political support of the revolution.
Lafayette was imprisoned during the French Revolution, and after his release, returned to the United States in 1824-25 for a 24-state tour that included stops in New Haven, Tolland and Middletown, CT. During the tour, Lafayette laid the cornerstone for the Bunker Hill monument in Massachusetts.
The statue, by sculptor Paul Wayland Bartlett, is a copy of a 1907 statue in Paris. The statue originally stood across Capitol Avenue, but was moved in 1979 to improve traffic patterns in the area. (The postcard image at the bottom of this post shows the statue in its original location.)
A small turtle stands near the horse’s left hoof. Various theories suggest the turtle may be a coded complaint about the pace of payment to Bartlett, or a secret apology for the pace of the statue’s completion.