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Cleveland's civic statuary

Cleveland's Civic Statuary: Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, Public Square
Cleveland's Civic Statuary: Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, Public Square
Photos by Rick Zimmerman

A short walking tour about the heart of the downtown of Cleveland, Ohio rewards the viewer with many fine civic sculptures and statuary.

One can perhaps best begin in the southeast quadrant of Public Square, at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. This monument, designed by Levi Scofield, and completed in 1894, supports a 125-foot granite shaft atop a square stone structure that houses a memorial to Civil War combatants. Topping the towering central shaft is a bronze of the Goddess of Liberty, while four additional bronze groupings cladding the base structure commemorate the four branches of the Union Army — Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry and Navy. Within the building are additional bas-reliefs and marble memorial tablets, along with museum artifacts.

Also within Public Square stands a statue of the City’s founder, Moses Cleaveland. His larger-than-life figure is depicted standing, with surveying staff and compass in hand. The statue, crafted by James C. Hamilton, was erected in 1888, upon the City’s 92nd birthday. Elsewhere in Public Square, one can view the seated figure of one of Cleveland’s best-known mayors, Tom L. Johnson. A businessman, civic leader, congressman, and mayor, Johnson was a leading progressive of the early 1900s. His statue, created by Herman N. Matzen, the seated mayor is shown grasping the treatise Progress and Poverty, by Henry George.

Drifting eastward from Public Square, one first encounters the block-long multi-story mass of the Howard Metzenbaum Federal Courthouse flanking Superior Avenue. Seated as sentinels at the prominent corners of that Courthouse are two fine sculptures by Daniel Chester French. Famed for his creation of the somber and colossal seated image of Abraham Lincoln within the Lincoln Memorial in our national capitol, French created these two groupings by 1908. The allegorical seated figure of Jurisprudence holds a tablet of law and appears to be flanked by both a criminal and his crime victims. At the opposite end of the building, Commerce is attended by a globe and a steamship that might circle it, as well as by representations of electricity and steam.

Several blocks to the north, at the terminus of Ontario Street at Lakeside Avenue, paired seated figures represent two of our early Republic’s leading lights. Both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are depicted larger-than-life at either side of the main entrance to the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. Both of these figures were rendered by Austrian-born Karl Theodor Francis Bitter.

Symmetrically placed to flank the East Sixth Street entrance to Cleveland’s Beaux-Arts Federal Reserve Bank are the allegorical female figures of Integrity and Security. Sculpted by the New York artist Henry Hering, a disciple of the famed Augustus Saint-Gaudens, these classical larger-than-life figures are depicted with the appropriate metaphorical trappings of armor, sword, rod and symbols of determination and rectitude.

Venturing across the Hope Memorial Bridge that spans from Carnegie Avenue near the downtown core to Lorain Avenue and the West Side Market beyond, one encounters the four Guardians of Traffic that mark the four substantial bridge piers. Designed by Henry Hering and architect Frank Walker, these figures are bas-reliefs melded into the Art Deco styling of the bridge. Each of the four classical figures grasps a different mode of transit. The bridge and its figures were completed in 1932.

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