Bunker Hill Monument

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Bunker Hill Monument
Bunker Hill Monument, 2009, Charlestown, Massachusetts
Bunker Hill Monument is located in Massachusetts
Bunker Hill Monument
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°22′34.9″N 71°3′38.8″W / 42.376361°N 71.060778°W / 42.376361; -71.060778Coordinates: 42°22′34.9″N 71°3′38.8″W / 42.376361°N 71.060778°W / 42.376361; -71.060778
Built 1825-43
Architect Willard, Solomon
Architectural style Obelisk
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 66000138
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL January 20, 1961[2]
The Battle of Bunker Hill, Howard Pyle, 1897.

The Bunker Hill Monument was built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. The 221-foot (67 m) granite obelisk was erected between 1827 and 1843 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, with granite from Quincy, Massachusetts, conveyed to the site via the Granite Railway, built specially for that purpose, followed by a trip by barge. There are 294 steps to the top.

The Bunker Hill Monument is not on Bunker Hill but instead on Breed's Hill, where most of the fighting in the misnamed Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place. The Monument Association, which had purchased the battlefield site, was forced to sell off all but the hill's summit in order to complete the monument.

The monument, one of the first in the United States, was erected to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major conflict between British and Patriot forces in the American Revolutionary War, fought there June 17, 1775. The first monument at the site was created in memory of Mason and fallen Bunker Hill hero Dr. Joseph Warren in 1794 by King Solomon's Lodge of Masons and was initially an 18 foot (5.5 m) wooden pillar topped with a gilt urn. In front of the obelisk is a statue of Col. William Prescott, a native of Groton, another hero of Bunker Hill. During the battle, according to popular stories, he coined the famous Revolutionary War phrase, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes". However, it is uncertain as to who said it, since various writers attribute it to Putnam, Stark, Prescott or Gridley. Doubts have also been expressed as to how original it was, and whether it was said at all.

An exhibit lodge built adjacent to the monument in the late 19th century houses a statue of Warren and a diorama of the battle. Bunker Hill is one of the sites along the Freedom Trail and is part of Boston National Historical Park.

The monument site reopened on April 2, 2007, after completion of a $3.7 million renovation that included repairs, handicap accessibility improvements, and new lighting for the Bunker Hill Monument that was switched on for the first time on April 20, 2007. The Bunker Hill Museum, across the street from the Monument, was dedicated on June 17, 2007, and includes many exhibits about the battle. No admission charge applies to this attraction.

Construction of the monument[edit]

The monument as of 1840 (courtesy Cornell University)
Bunker Hill Day celebration, between 1890 and 1901

William Ticknor, a well-known Boston lawyer and antiquarian, first suggested the memorial and an interested group of men met for breakfast at the home of Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins. Among them were William Tudor, Daniel Webster, Professor George Ticknor, Doctor John C. Warren, William Sullivan, and George Blake. On May 10, 1823, the first public meeting was called. Each member subscribed five dollars, and on June 7, 1823, the Bunker Hill Monument Association was established and the work of raising money was begun. Famed nineteenth-century philanthropist Amos Lawrence contributed $10,000 to fund the building.

19th century lodge built near the base of the monument

In the spring of 1825 the directors had purchased about 15 acres (61,000 m²) on the slope of Breed's Hill, but had not yet chosen a design. The first design committee consisted of Daniel Webster, noted engineer Loammi Baldwin, Jr., George Ticknor, Gilbert Stuart, and Washington Allston. One hundred dollars was offered for the best design; about 50 plans were presented in response. Choice was soon narrowed to two (a column and an obelisk) and a new committee was appointed to procure designs and estimate expenses for each. At the next meeting the majority voted that the obelisk designed by Solomon Willard be used. The directors laid the cornerstone on June 17, 1825. The Marquis de Lafayette (who was on a 14-month tour of the United States on the 50th anniversary of the War) performed the ceremony, Daniel Webster delivered the oration, and the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, conducted the services. Rev. Joseph Thaxter, who was wounded in the battle, officiated as chaplain at the ceremony, offering a prayer in thanks for the colonists' victory.[3][4]

1815 Masonic display in the base of the monument

Perhaps surprisingly, a railroad was created to carry granite to the monument for its construction. Work proceeded somewhat slowly at first, but the Granite Railway was completed in short order and became operational on October 7, 1826, as the first commercial railroad in the United States functioning as a common carrier.

Construction was frequently halted as available funds were depleted. To bring the project to completion the Monument Association in 1838 began to sell off the 10 acres (40,000 m2) of the battlefield as house lots, eventually preserving only the summit of Breed's Hill as the monument grounds. Neighbors disgruntled with the construction eyesore were rumored to have plans to raise money to tear down the partially completed monument.[5] Sarah Josepha Hale and the readers of her magazine supplied funds essential to the monument's successful completion.[5] The capstone was laid on July 23, 1842 with the monument being dedicated on June 17 of the following year, again with a Daniel Webster oration.

The Bunker Hill Monument Association maintained the monument and grounds until 1919 when it was turned over to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 1976 the monument was transferred to the National Park Service and became a unit of Boston National Historical Park.

Details of Construction[edit]

The blocks of granite for the monument average two cubic yards each and were quarried by wedging, and delivered to the site of the monument at an actual cost of $5.40 per cubic yard, from a quarry opened for the purpose. The average contract offers for the same were $24.30.[6]

Image gallery[edit]

The view from the Bunker Hill Monument.

See also[edit]

Preceded by
USS Constitution
Locations along Boston's Freedom Trail
Bunker Hill Monument
Succeeded by
Last location - end of trail

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ "Bunker Hill Monument". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  3. ^ Thaxter prayer, Annals of the American Pulpit, William Buell Sprague, 1865
  4. ^ History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Thomas Tracy Bouve, 1893
  5. ^ a b http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Hale__Sarah_Josepha.html
  6. ^ The Civil Engineer's Pocket-Book, Trautwine et al., 19th Edition, 1909

External links[edit]