P.T. Barnum Statue, Bethel

We’re a bit late on this one, but Bethel dedicated a new statue honoring local son P.T. Barnum in September.

The six-foot statue, by local artist Dave Gesualdi, stands along Greenwood Avenue outside the public library.

The statue, dedicated to mark the 200th anniversary of Barnum’s 1810 birth in Bethel, depicts Barnum raising his hat as he departs the town to seek his fortune.

Barnum’s career would include creating a curiosity museum in New York and the circus that still bears his name, as well as political and charitable contributions to Bridgeport.

We visited Dave’s studio last March, as the sculptor was creating the statue in clay, and were impressed to see the final version in its outdoor setting.

P.T. Barnum Statue Coming to Bethel

The Bethel Historical Society and sculptor David Gesualdi are celebrating the 200th anniversary of P.T. Barnum’s birth year with a new statue that will be dedicated in September.

Dave Gesualdi, who was also responsible for Bethel’s Veterans’ Monument, estimates he has four to five weeks’ worth of work before the 600-pound clay sculpture that dominates his Bethel studio is sent to the foundry.

The statue, scheduled to be dedicated on Sept. 25 as part of a celebration of Barnum’s life that will include a parade, depicts the noted showman, political and social leader waving a top hat and striding forward.

“I have to age him and add a lot of the character details like his eyeballs, but most of the structure is in place,” Dave says.

After being approached by the Historical Society early last year, Dave began sketching preliminary designs for the statue. Three models were displayed in the local library, and residents voted on the winning design.

“I really liked the symbolism of Barnum throwing his hat into the ring,” Dave says. “You always see a lot of photos of Barnum with the hat, so we decided early on to include that in the theme. I also felt strongly that I wanted to have him taking a step forward into the world. Barnum was a vibrant man of action, and I couldn’t conceive of portraying him seated.”

The top hat, while being historically accurate, also pays tribute to Bethel’s former role as a hat manufacturing center.

To capture Barnum’s appearance, the walls of Dave’s studio are decorated with contemporary photos. He also studied the 1893 Barnum monument in Bridgeport’s Seaside Park, which the showman posed for in his later years. Highlights of that visit can be seen in a YouTube video.

The Barnum statue will be cast at the Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry in Rock Tavern, N.Y., using the lost-wax casting method. Under this process, the clay statue will be coated with rubber to create a mold. The rubber mold will be used to form a wax version of the statue that will be dipped several times in a ceramic mixture, and that mixture will be hardened to create another mold. The ceramic mold will be filled with the molten bronze that will yield the final statue.

“I’ll be working on the final details with the wax version, and smoothing things out with sharp tools and hot tools,” Dave says.

A number of the statue’s design considerations are based on its being displayed outdoors. For instance, the depth of the interior of Barnum’s top hat is being limited to prevent birds or bees from nesting inside, and Dave tried to reduce places where rainwater could collect on the statue.

Similarly, elements such as Barnum’s collar and bow tie were made thicker than life-size so they’ll stand out to a viewer looking up at the statue, which will be mounted on a four-foot base.

Independent filmmaker Corey Boutilier is documenting the creation of the Barnum statue and Barnum’s life in a film, P.T. Barnum The Lost Legend, scheduled for release in November.

The statue’s progress is also being chronicled on a Facebook page available at http://www.facebook.com/ptbarnum.

World War Monument, Bethel

World War Monument, BethelBethel honors its World War I veterans with a local version of a notable Doughboy statue.

The monument features one of two copies of a statue by sculptor E.M. Viquesney known formally as the “Spirit of the American Doughboy.” At least 138 other versions of this statue are displayed in the United States, including a monument in North Canaan and three versions in New York state. (We visited the North Canaan monument in July and the Harrison, N.Y. monument in September.)

The dedication on the front (south) side of the monument’s base reads, “Erected by the Community Association of Bethel in honor of her war veterans.” The base also bears the monument’s 1928 dedication date.

Like most copies of the Doughboy statue, Bethel’s monument has been repaired a number of times over the years. The bayonet is a copy modeled after the North Canaan monument.

Unlike the copies in North Canaan and Harrison, Bethel’s Doughboy has the original barbed wire between the two tree stumps near the soldier’s feet.

World War Monument, BethelBethel’s monument is located in Doughboy Square, on a triangular green in the heart of downtown. (The gentleman in the background is preparing a holiday display on the green.) The area around the green was originally named for Bethel native P.T. Barnum, and was renamed in 2004. Barnum had donated a large bronze fountain in the square that had deteriorated by the mid-1920s and was replaced by the Doughboy monument.

Source: Spirit of the American Doughboy Database

World War Monument, Bethel

World War Monument, Bethel


Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Bethel

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, BethelBethel honors 14 Civil War heroes with a granite monument at the top of a hill in Center Cemetery.

The monument, dedicated in 1892, was carved from a 14-foot block of solid granite and features distinctive carvings. A dedication on the front (north) face reads, “In memory of the soldiers and sailors of Bethel who gave their lives in defence of the Union 1861-1865.”

The dedication’s carving resembles a scroll suspended from a rod that hangs from just below the feet of an eagle near the top of the monument’s face. A ribbon unfurled next to the eagle reads “Union,” and “Liberty.”

The monument’s base features an intricately carved trophy featuring two rifles and crossed swords along with a soldier’s equipment belt, hat, rucksack and bedroll.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, BethelThe monument’s south face lists the names and regimental affiliations of 14 residents who were killed in the war.

The sides of the monument are mostly rough rock face, other than two granite cannonball pyramids.

Source: Connecticut Historical Society: Civil War Monuments of Connecticut

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Bethel

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Bethel

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Bethel