Perry's Monument to Close For Repairs Almost Exactly 150 Years
After the First Attempt to Start Building It
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay will close for extensive repairs around Sept. 30, 2009. Construction of the current monument began in October, 1912 and the monument opened to the public on June 13, 1915.
But the first attempt to build a monument was actually in 1859. The monument was to be built on Gibraltar Island, and the cornerstone was put in place at a ceremony there on September 10, 1859. The official announcement was made a few days earlier and appears below.
The event took place but was a bit of a disaster. No preparations had been made for laying the cornerstone, and no funds were available for continuing construction. The events of September 10 are best summarized in an article that appeared in the Detroit Free Press on September 14, 1859 and also in the New York Herald on Sunday, September 18, 1859. The article is the following:
The Corner Stone or the Perry Monument - Some Singular Proceedings.
On Saturday about ten thousand people from various parts of the United States, though principally from the States bordering on Lake Erie, assembled at Put-in-Bay to celebrate the great victory achieved by Commodore Perry on Lake Erie in 1813, and to lay the corner stone of a monument designed to commemorate the great event. It had been announced on a previous occasion that some $4,000 had been raised toward a fund for the erection of a monument, and that now, all being in readiness, the corner stone was to be laid with appropriate ceremonies. As we said, about ten thousand people assembled to take part in the interesting ceremonies. But when they arrived at Put-in-Bay it was found that the corner stone was to be laid on another island, inaccessible to the large boats, and to which the committee of arrangements, with the officers of the day, reporters, and a few favored spectators, were conveyed in a small boat. Here it was found that no preparations had been made for laying a corner stone, no foundation having been laid, or even excavation made. But, determined to accomplish something, the valiant committee set to work with shovels and spades, making an excavation of about two feet, when they struck the solid rock. The stone that had been brought with them was then produced, a copper box of suitable dimensions for the reception of the deposits was also at hand, into which divers and sundry interesting relics were deposited, and the box sealed up and placed in the stone. The stone was then let into the hole in the ground and “laid.” When these interesting ceremonies had been performed, a question was raised as to the amount of funds on hand for the completion of the monument, when it was ascertained that the treasury contained not a cent and was dependent upon the voluntary contributions or those who might take an interest in the patriotic enterprise. The treasurer stoutly maintained that there never had been any money in his hands belonging to the monument fund. Whether this is so or not, we do not know. But it is well known that the sum of $4,000 or thereabouts was reported to have been raised toward the erection of the monument. The query is pertinent - What has become of this money? Can anybody throw any light upon the subject?
But another circumstance occurred in connection with this affair that has a singular aspect. After all the furor and display of laying the corner stone, it was taken up again by certain of the committee hailing from Sandusky, and the box containing the deposits taken out and carried to that city. When questioned as to the meaning and intent of this strange procedure, the Sandusky gentlemen replied that the property was unsafe upon the island, and that for greater security they intended depositing it in a Sandusky bank.
This whole proceeding strikes us as bordering rather closely upon the farcical. In the first place, it looks like child’s play to undertake the erection of a monument in honor of so brilliant an event as Perry’s victory without first maturing some plan for its completion. In the second place, it was worse than foolish to get up a great noise and commotion about laying a corner stone when but a score or so could witness the proceeding. Then it was humbuggery to proceed with that ceremony until a foundation had been laid and proper preparations made for the reception of the stone in its final resting place; and then it was an unprecedented and questionable act on the part of the Sandusky gentlemen to remove the deposits from the position in which they had been placed by the committee. Their rights in the premises are of difficult apprehension. They were afraid somebody else would carry the deposits away, and so they carried them away themselves. As if the burglar, on entering a house, should reason that if he did not strip the premises of their contents some other burglar would come along and take them, so he would take them away to save them.
It is possible that some explanation of this matter can be made by those interested, and we trust there will be. But if our information is correct - and we think we have good authority - the Perry monument is a humbug.
No further attempt was made to continue with construction of the monument until 1866, when a brief article in the New York Times on April 30 implied that Jay Cooke was intending to complete the monument as a marble column. That notice is below, and is incorrect in stating that the monument was first started in 1858, since it was started in 1859 as noted above..
Cooke completed a modest monument, probably later in 1866 shortly after the above article was written.
A number of additional attempts were than made to build a monument on South Bass Island, starting with a proposal at the 55th anniversary celebration in 1868. Jeff Kissell's book Put-in-Bay: The Construction of Perry's Monument states that "between 1890 and 1903, congressmen introduced 11 separate bills in the United States Congress for creation of a monument. All failed. The approaching 100th anniversary of the battle, along with the emergence of the natural abilities of one key individual, enabled a movement to succeed in erecting a memorial where past efforts had failed."
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Revised: 24 Aug 2009 18:42:26.
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