Greek Temple Monument PDF Print E-mail

In 1907, the city of Atlantic City – in collaboration with Carrère and Hastings, the New York City architecture firm who famously built the mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library – conceived of a plan to design a decorative monument. The project was delayed by the beginning of World War I. The City decided that the monument would be built in memory of those who served in the Armed Forces during the War, and in 1917 a site for the monument was purchased from the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad Company. On February 5, 1920 the City Commissioners passed an ordinance approving the appropriation of $150,000 in funds for the monument’s creation, and in April of 1920 another ordinance approved the creation of a Monument Commission. There is some discrepancy regarding the actual date the monument was constructed; however, the Greek Temple Monument, also referred to as the World War I Monument, was finally erected between 1922 and 1923. It was dedicated to the residents of Atlantic City who fought in World War I.

H009.ChelseaPark001web The Greek Temple Monument rests at the far south end of the city, in O’Donnell Park at the intersection of South Albany and Ventnor Avenues. The rotunda of the monument was built by Emile Diebitch Inc., with modifications to the Carrère and Hastings design, at a cost of $97,039. The structure is124 feet in diameter, is comprised of 16 Doric Columns, and is made from Indiana limestone. The paving between the columns is slate and bluestone. The rotunda has four entrances that roughly correspond to the cardinal directions. In 2008 the entrances were closed off by ornate metal fences. The monument’s frieze displays the names of the battles in which Atlantic City men fought: Montdider-Moyon, Ypres-Lys, Cambrai, Aisne-Marne, Meuse, Vittorio-Veuetto, St. Mihiel, Lys, Oise-Aisne, Champagne-Marne, Somme, Argonne.  The monument is inscribed with the shields of the Army-Navy Aviation and Marines and an interior inscription reads “This Monument Was Erected In 1922 By The City Of Atlantic City In Honor Of Those Of Her Citizens Who Served The World War 1917-1918.”
1920s. This view of Chelsea Parkway shows the World War I Memorial in the distance, as well as the Atlantic City High School, which was opened in 1923. The Soldiers and Sailors Monoment is in the foreground. (H009.ChelseaPark001 Alfred M. Heston Collection, Atlanitc City Free Public Library)

 

The rotunda houses a nine-foot bronze, Beaux-Arts statue titled, “Liberty in Distress” by Frederick A. MacMonnies. The City commissioned this work from MacMonnies at a cost of $19,000. It was installed in June 1929 on an octagonal pedestal of green Vermont marble, which cost $3,200. Some controversy ensued after the statue was commissioned and purchased when, in 1934, the City discovered that MacMonnies had created a similar statue for the French government (“France Aroused”). Atlantic City had paid for what it supposed was an exclusive design. The French statue was larger and was installed for the 20th anniversary of the first battle of the Marne and is located at Varredes, France.

Since that first controversy, the Greek Temple Monument has been the center of several city planning discussions and institutive actions. In 1949, the visiting New York Art Commission executive secretary called attention to the statue’s neglect, which was defaced by vandals. In the same year, perhaps as a measure to discourage vandalism, the City installed floodlights in the Temple’s interior to illuminate the statue. In 1961, the City traffic supervisor recommended moving the Greek Temple Monument from Albany Ave. to Memorial Park across from the, then, Atlantic City High School. The suggestion was made to improve the flow of traffic. City Commissioners voted to demolish the Temple in 1962 and relocate the statue to the Memorial Park with a marble wall inscribed with the names of the World War I and II servicepersons. By 1963 the plan to move the statue and demolish the Temple was abandoned because of the cost – upwards of $60,000. In 1965 the City re-explored the possibility of moving the Temple or the statue to improve traffic conditions and the idea was again rejected.  In the 1990s, some efforts – including new landscaping and lighting – were made by the City’s Urban Beautification Committee to improve the monument and its site. In 1998, the Greek Temple Monument and “Liberty in Distress” were rededicated.
H049.725.94Wor004web
1940. World War I Memorial. (H049.725.94Wor004 Atlantic City Heritage Collections, Atlantic City Free Public Library)

Sources:

City of Atlantic City City Ordinances, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1925.

Atlantic City Press articles, various dates.

Fine Arts Commission of Atlantic City. History of the Greek Temple Monument – War Memorial. N.d.

Hewitt, Mark Alan, et al. Carrere & Hastings: Architects. New York: Acanthus Press, 2006.

Resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

Atlantic City Free Public Library Collection of Atlantic City Photographs (H009)

Atlantic City Free Public Library Collection of Atlantic City Postcards (H049)

Atlantic City Free Public Library Collection of Maps (H020) 

City of Atlantic City City Ordinances

Local History Subject File - World War I Memorial

 

The Atlantic City Experience was produced and is managed by The Atlantic City Free Public Library, a service of the City of Atlantic City.

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