It didn’t make it into the ground for Memorial Day as planned, and it’s possible a new World War I monument commissioned nearly two years ago won’t find a home in time for Veterans Day.
“The war didn’t last this long,” said an exasperated Lisa McPhee, commander of the James R. Kirby A
Although the Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday morning to erect the 6-by-9-foot high granite monument in Central Park, on the Union Street side, it was later decided that plan had to be changed because it would have required moving an earlier monument dedicated to the Bigelows, one of the town’s founding families.
Jessica Brodie, the newly-hired parks and recreation director, said moving the smaller Bigelow monument or putting it behind the World War I monument, would not do it justice.
A second location in Central Park, also on the Union Street side, but closer to Chestnut Street, near a sundial, was also ruled out, she said.
Now, Brodie said, the commission at its next meeting will discuss erecting the monument in Hamilton Square, also known as Depot Square, off Main Street and not within walking distance of other war memorials and monuments in Central Park and outside Town Hall. The meeting is Wednesday at 9 a.m.
The World War I monument, with the names of 673 Clintonians engraved on it, was initially to be placed on Town Hall property, but controversy about blocking windows and removing trees sent the American Legion back to the drawing board.
The James R. Kirby American Legion Post 50 paid $60,000 for the granite monument. Member Charles Moran, who was at Tuesday’s meeting along with the Rev. Edward Barrus, pastor of the Faith Bible Church, in Clinton; McPhee; and longtime member and past commander John T. Mahan, said Central Park was a favored locale in the first place.
“We want it in the center of town,” Moran said. “We would prefer it be in Central Park, on the (Museum of Russian Icon) side (Union Street) if possible. It’s huge and it’s very attractive and it would complement the park.”
Edward J. Verrier Jr., chairman of the Parks Commission, said the vote was contingent on consulting with a committee from the 1970s that erected the Bigelow monument. He said the commission visited the park after the meeting and decided it would not work out. Verrier said another meeting about the monument is scheduled for Friday morning.
The siting of the monument, which was made in Vermont, has been controversial since it was first brought up at a selectmen’s meeting early last year.
A site in front of Town Hall, facing Church Street, was rejected because a tree would have to be removed and the monument was deemed too large for that space. It was then changed to the Walnut Street side of Town Hall, near similar monuments with the names of veterans of World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars inscribed on them. It turns out that site also requires removing a tree.
Next, a proposal to put the monument at the Veterans Memorial Athletic Field, off Route 110 across from the high school, was voted down by a Legion monument subcommittee, resulting in the resignation of John Gannon, chairman of the subcommittee.
In an Aug. 31 letter to the parks commission, Gannon, a World War II veteran, said Central Park was ruled out immediately because monuments already exist in all four corners, with a large fountain in the center. Gannon said Hamilton Square was also considered, but the subcommittee decided no place there “would do it justice.”
Hamilton Square is named for Perley R. Hamilton, who died in World War I. Members of his family, including niece Virginia Ittner, nephew William Schmidt and cousins Carol Ann Hamilton and Patricia (Hamilton) Brownell, said Wednesday that they would be OK with the monument going into the square “as long as it does not take away” from the square.
“We see it as a special tribute to all the World War I personnel,” Hamilton said.