Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day III - Plainfield's War Memorial Flagpole

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The placing of a bronze plaque in 1922 in the rotunda of City Hall honoring those who served and died in World War I seems to have been the genesis of the idea of a monument honoring Plainfielders who had given their lives in all past wars.

In June 1925, the Common Council organized a War Memorial Committee with the purpose of drawing up a proposal for such a memorial, to be submitted to the Council at a future date. A number of town notables, as well as several Councillors and veterans of past wars were appointed.

The War Memorial Committee made its report to the Common Council in January of 1926, and in May of that year, a contract was awarded for the construction of a flagpole to be mounted above a bronze sculptural base, the whole sited on a granite plaza.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, which owns the triangular plot at the intersection of East Seventh Street and Watchung and Crescent Avenues, drew up an agreement permitting the city to "erect and maintain" a War Memorial on the site, providing only that the city "keep the plot in good order," and indemnify the church against any liability.

Although the contracts were let, and the manufacture and construction appeared to get under way in a timely fashion -- with dedication set for Armistice Day, November 11, 1926 -- an enormous brouhaha broke out between the central council of the veterans' organizations and the Common Council, dragging into it the minister and trustees of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The source of the controversy? The inscription.

The inscription proposed for the sculptural base is the underlined portion of this selection from the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah, Chapter 2
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

The controversy, its resolution, and the eventual dedication of the monument will be the subject of a post to celebrate its actual, belated dedication.


The Memorial Day series--
Saturday:
Memorial Day I - Early History
Sunday: Memorial Day II - A Remembrance of all who have fallen
Monday: Memorial Day III - Plainfield's War Memorial Flagpole


Online resources:
The US Memorial Day Organization website
The Memorial Day Foundation website
The VA's Memorial Day Resources website
Beliefnet's Memorial Day Resources website
Waterloo, NY - Birthplace of Memorial Day
The Buddy Poppy: "Moina Michael adopted poppy to memorialize soldiers"
Moina Michael Stamp: "3-cent commemorative stamp honoring Moina Michael"

-- Dan Damon
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1 comment:

S.Holmes said...

Thanks for the Memoral Day posts. Very informative, interesting and timely. Our active military personnel, veterans and those gone on deserve to be honored and remembered