History in Bronze: The Statues of Washington Park

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Washington Park Conservancy takes care of the seven statues in the nearly 150-year-old park.  The most well known is the King Memorial Fountain. People know it more as the Moses Fountain, the centerpiece for the formal gardens and Tulip Festival in May.

In the biblical story, Moses slammed his staff into the rocks on top of Mount Horeb causing water to flow out.

“What it depicts is Moses on top of Mount Horeb from the biblical story of Moses striking the rock,” Jessica Neidl, a local writer, said. “In the desert and water coming forward, giving people water to drink.”

The statue was dedicated to Rufus King, a Connecticut man who moved to Albany, where he made a large fortune in banking. At his death in 1867, King left his fortune to his four adult children. Several years later, in 1878, Henry King, one of the children, passed. In his will, King left $20,000 to build a fountain in the park in honor of his father.

After 15 years of no progress, the family added another $10,000 to attract serious sculptors.  After a competition, John Massey Rhind was chosen over the rest.

The rocks at the base of the Moses Fountain came from Storm King Mountain in Orange County.

Washington Park has other statues of note. The Scottish Poet Robert Burns was immortalized thanks to a bequest from an elderly Albany woman. She wanted her money to be used to build a Robert Burns statue in the park.

The Henry Johnson Historical Monument was constructed over several years by the 369th Airborne.

The Henry Johnson Historical Monument has a large engraved plinth with a bronze bust of Johnson on top. Neidl said it took years to complete with the plinth coming first and then the bust because the 369th Airborne Division raised all the money for the Henry Johnson Monument.

The Soldiers and Sailors’ monument was erected by the Grand Army of the Republic as a monument to Civil War veterans.

The Soldiers and Sailors’ Memorial was first dedicated in 1912, and in 1986, the city of Albany rededicated it to be the official veterans memorial for the city.

Washington Park has many paths to walk and open spaces for you and your family to enjoy. Be on the lookout for some History in Bronze while you explore.

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