Hidden in plain sight Sometimes overlooked, downtown statues tell stories

Tolonda Griffin-Ross, the deputy city clerk for Jersey City, has walked past a 108-year-old bronze statue for the last 18 years on her way into City Hall, but had no idea what it was for.

“From the back, I thought it was a Viking, but it could be a woman offering something of peace,” Ross said last week. Actually, the statue in front of the Grove Street building was dedicated in 1899 to the “soldiers, sailors and marines of the Civil War.”

At the time, the Civil War had ended only 34 years earlier, so the city wanted to commemorate the war’s veterans in Hudson County.

Designed by Philip Martiny, a New York sculptor of French birth, the monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1899. It was the finalist amongst 39 entries in a competition organized by Leonard J. Gordon, one of the founders of the Jersey City Free Public Library.

The nine-foot bronze figure was described in a Jan. 16, 1898 New York Times article as the “Goddess of Peace.” It was placed on an 11-foot granite pedestal.

The entire statue is called the “Sailors and Soldiers Monument.”

Engraved on the pedestal is the inscription: “Erected by the people of Hudson County to commemorate the soldiers, sailors and marines of the Civil War.”

Despite the credentials behind the creation of this noble figurine, it is often taken for granted.

Longtime city resident Virginia Miller, on a recent visit to City Hall, didn’t know what to make of the monument.

“I just look at it and keep going,” Miller said. “It looks to me like it needs to refurbished or spruced up.”Police statue stolen twice

The larger-than-life bust of a police officer stares at those driving down Montgomery Street toward the Hudson River waterfront in downtown Jersey City.

The 1,500-pound, 8-foot high bronze statue, known as the Jersey City Police Memorial, sits on a grass divider, its base somewhat obscured by thorn-filled bushes.

It is a dedication to past officers of the Jersey City Police Department who have died in the line of duty.

In fact, 37 officers have died on the job in the department’s 178-year history. Two of those deaths were recent. Police Officers Shawn Carson and Robert Nguyen accidentally drove their car off the Lincoln Highway Bridge, which connects Jersey City to Kearny, on Christmas Day of 2004 and died in the water below.

Created in 1936 by Jersey City sculptor Archimedes Giacomantonio, the statue was carved in the likenesses of police officers Arthur Morrisey who posed for the head, and Harry Morse who posed for the body. It was unveiled by the late Mayor Frank Hague.

The statue initially had a home in the Bayview Cemetery in the southern part of Jersey City.

But between 1961 and 1975, the memorial was stolen twice, with the second theft leading to it being cut into pieces and almost sold for scrap.

After the statue was repaired by Giacomantonio and other volunteers in 1976, it was relocated to the present Montgomery Street site.

In 1997, there was a follow-up rededication ceremony.

The Jersey City Police Department is now considering moving the statue to yet another site.

The department’s spokesperson, Lt. Edgar Martinez, said last week that Brian McDonough, captain of the department’s East District, has been looking at locations by the Hudson River waterfront.

“It’s hard to have [memorial] services there, because it sits in the middle of the street, and you would have to shut down Montgomery Street,” Martinez said. “Putting it at the waterfront would enable to actually have access and can spend time looking at the statue.”

Martinez continued, “And we can do an actual ceremony for the fallen officers.”

Martinez said there is no timetable for when the statue will be relocated. Comments on the story can be sent to rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com


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