Honoring Lafayette, and His Monument

Anne-Claire Legendre, consul general of France for New York, in front of the monument to the Marquis de Lafayette. (Photo by Andy Katz via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Prospect Park’s monument to the Marquis de Lafayette, who led French forces in supporting the U.S. War of Independence, is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and to mark the occasion the consul general of France, representatives of the American Friends of Lafayette and others joined in a tribute last week to both the French leader and the monument, designed by Daniel Chester French, reports Andy Katz in Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

“This monument was conceived as a gesture of support and friendship between the United States and France,” Prospect Park Alliance President Susan Donoghue explained. “That friendship, that mutual support is so important with what’s happening in the world today.”

The consul general echoed the sentiments of friendship and alliance between the two nations.

“History bears witness to the common destinies shared by the U.S. and France,” Anne-Claire Legedre, consul-general of France in New York, declared. “[Lafayette] was the leading embodiment of the French-American alliance.”

The occasion also happened to mark the centennial of the landing of American Expeditionary Forces in France to help the republic fight for liberty during the Great War.

Although the sculpture was unveiled one month after Congress declared war against Germany, its genesis preceded the Great War and even the 20th century.  A bequest of glass merchant and City of Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Henry Harteau, who died in 1895, the work could not begin nor the funds Harteau had set aside — $35,000 — released until his widow had also passed away, which she did in 1913. Noted sculptor Daniel Chester French — who would later craft the Lincoln statue in Washington, D.C. — was commissioned to create the larger-than-life sculpture, set onto a pink granite base designed by architect Henry Bacon.

Go to Brooklyn Daily Eagle to read how the monument suffered neglect for a time, and learn how and why 80 cities, towns, townships and counties in the U.S. are named Lafayette.

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