History in Bronze: Troy’s Monument Square

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TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10)—The area of 2nd, Broadway, and River Street has been a place for the people of Troy to gather for news since the 1800s. That triangle piece of land was first known as Washington Square to honor our country’s first president.

An old wooden structure sat in the square where the wounded and missing names would be posted during the Civil War. At the end of the war, the structure was destroyed in a bonfire to celebrate the end of such a terrible conflict.

“On one of these corners was a group of men that basically end up forming the Rensselaer County Grand Army of the Republic,” said Rensselaer County and Troy City Historian Kathryn Sheehan. “We need to raise a suitable monument for all those who served from Rensselaer County for all the wars going back to the American Revolution.”

The September 1891 dedication of Monument square, where a reported 25,000 people attended.

It took over twenty years of planning, fundraising, and construction. The fundraising was all done through subscription and penny fundraisers that even had school children helping out.

In September of 1891, 25,000 people came out for the dedications, crowding all around the monument.

On three sides of the monument are the dates for each of the conflicts and on the fourth is an inscription.

 TO THE MEN FROM RENSSELAER COUNTY WHO FOUGHT FOR THEIR COUNTRY ON LAND AND SEA.

Other adornments include four large bronze relief panels of the infantry, the artillery, the cavalry, and the naval battle at Hampton Roads. In that battle, the Monitor and the Merrimack, both Ironsides, clashed over two days with no apparent winner.

The Monitor had ties to Troy, where parts for its iron turret and other parts were forged at the Rensselaer Iron Works.

The 17-tall bronze statue on top of the 50-foot marble column is by New York City sculptor James Kelly and is called A Call to Arms and depicts the Goddess Columbia as she stands with one foot on a cannonball with a sword in hand. In her other hand, she is holding a trumpet.

Today Monument Square is still a gathering spot. The Troy Market brings people from all over the Capital Region to the monument’s base every Saturday in the summertime. In the summer of 2020, they had Summer on the Square, which Sheehan believes they might be doing again in 2021.

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