Soldiers Monument

Watertown
Watertown, Mass., Mass.

Year Built: 1869

This monument was designed in 1869 for the soldiers of the Civil War and expected to cost about $4,000 to $5,000. The monument was to be placed in Weetomac Vale Cemetery. The design was apparently never used and the current soldier's monument was created and erected in 1889 deriving from the soldier's monument in New Bedford. No pictures are known to exist of this proposed design.

Brigham lost the commission to fellow Watertown architect George Meacham. Although the subcommittee that reviewed the bids for this monument selected Brigham, Meacham attended the Town Meeting and proposed his idea directly to the meeting and got them to overturn the subcommittee’s decision. Brigham wrote to Sturgis, saying that, “

“I have lost the Soldiers’ Monument at Watertown in a rather shabby manner. The committee having decided in favor of employing me to make a design and carry it into execution, but when the subject came up before town meeting, Mr. Meacham presented to the town (Tom, Dick and Harry) a very large drawing making a great show and offering to contract to build “that original design” for a certain amount of money—a proceeding which seemed to be very practical business performance to the townspeople who voted to contract with Mr. Meacham to furnish them a monument for the sum proposed. Of course you may imagine that I (who was not present) should never have thought for a moment have thought of presenting a design submitted in competition to be submitted to the taste and judgment of a town meeting. If one were to cater to such criticism one would not omit (as I did) to display as prominently as possible the national bird. I am told that had my designs only borne that emblem all would have been right.”

Brigham later wrote to Sturgis, sounding like sour grapes,

“I am much disgusted about the monument affair at Watertown, now that I know more of it. Think of a pile of cannon balls on the top of a pillar on which a spread eagle is roosting as though they were eggs. Say nothing of the query how the ammunition got there or what should keep it from rolling off! Mr. Meacham caters to the public taste with a vengeance.”

Brigham ultimately has the last laugh as the cemetery never interred one person and Meacham’s monument was unceremoniously sold to the Town of Rochester, New Hampshire. Meacham brought action against the town for non-payment of the fee, which likely tainted any potential for Meacham to design buildings for the town.

Dan Meehan of the Charles W. Canney Camp #5, Rochester, New Hampshire, a group that maintains the Soldiers Monument in Rochester, New Hampshire, has the plans and the monument in Rochester, indicating that it was designed by George Meacham and not Brigham.


References

• Charles W. Canney Camp #5, Rochester, New Hampshire

• Letters from Charles Brigham to John Hubbard Sturgis, March 1, 1869, April 26, 1869, Sturgis Papers, Boston Athenaeum Library.

• Cemetery Commission's Records, Town of Watertown, July 29, 1868 and November 16, 1868.

• Town Reports, Town of Watertown, for the Year Ending February 2, 1872, p. 37.

• Town Reports, Town of Watertown, 1889, Auditor’s Report, p. 122 (noted that the Soldiers monument at long last has been cast).

• Watertown Sun, March 17, 1871.


Links

http://www.cwcanneycamp5.org/index_files/page1011.htm

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