Friday, July 06, 2007

New York/Greenpoint

Monitor and Merrimac monument by Antonio de Filippo (1900–1993)

A few days ago I returned to McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to photograph the Monitor and Merrimac monument. I am photographing Civil War related monuments around Brooklyn for an exhibit this fall. McGolrick is a peaceful neighborhood park surrounded by mostly modest houses, many with aluminum or vinyl siding in the prevailing Greenpoint fashion.

Unlike the other Civil War monuments I've photographed, which were made shortly after the war, this one was not commissioned until the 1930s. According to what I've read, it was intended to commemorate the work of John Ericsson, the Swedish/American inventor who created the Monitor, the iron clad warship.

From the New York City Parks Department website:

The Monitor was the product of Ericsson’s response to the Confederacy’s intent in early 1861 to ironclad its warship, the Merrimac. Ericsson built the Monitor at Greenpoint’s Continental Iron Works, owned by local resident Thomas Fitch Rowland. The ship’s engine and machinery were fabricated in Greenwich Village at the Delamater Iron Works, with whom Ericsson was in partnership. The keel was laid on October 15, 1861, and within an astounding 100 days, the Monitor was launched from Greenpoint on January 30, 1862. Ericsson’s newfangled ship was put to the test in a famous battle against the Merrimac at Hampton Roads, Virginia on March 9, 1862, in which the Union forces averted defeat.

The sculpture itself is oddly proportioned. A muscled male nude with oversized hands and feet tugs at a rope tied around a capstan. He sits in a tiny boat, I assume meant to represent the Monitor, which is surrounded by stylized waves. The sculpture is clearly a product of the '30s, and relates to other classically inspired figures around the city. The earlier Civil War sculptures are much more naturalistic and attempt to express ideals attributed to the various generals and political leaders of the time. This monument, far removed in time from its subject, is heroic but less personal.

McGolrick Park

Across the park from the Monitor and Merrimac monument the heroic and prosaic coexist.


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