In our most recent post, we wondered if any of our readers knew what had happened to the monument to Mayor Hiram Edgerton that stood on Backus Street near Phelps, at the entry to Exposition (later Edgerton) Park. You may recall that the monument looked like this:
And now it’s nowhere to be seen.
I can report that the monument has been found. Well, kind of found. Let me explain.
I asked preservationist, historian and colleague Cynthia Howk (Landmark Society of Western New York) if she could help me find the monument. She leapt into action, and put out a call to her Rochester History Detective Squad. Within about 45 minutes I had my answer. Here it is:
The relief portrait of Mayor Edgerton, sculpted by NYC artist Joseph Renier (1887-1966) has been removed from its larger stone setting, and hangs inside the Edgerton Park Rec Center, on a segment of wall between the elevator and what appears to be a door to an electrical closet or maintenance room.
The larger monument apparently is no more. Mystery solved.
But I did not think I could call this case closed without a bit more sleuthing, which I finally concluded this morning. My results follow.
I found an article in the Democrat and Chronicle, our local newspaper (well, kind of a newspaper today, but once heftier and meatier) from Saturday, September 1, 1923. In that article, I learned that the monument, paid for entirely by private donations, was designed by notable Rochester architects Edwin Gordon and William Kaelber. The monument had inscriptions both front and back, words that were written by a committee led by Edward Foreman, who was, among other things, Rochester City Historian from 1921 to 1936.
Under the relief of Mayor Edgerton is inscribed:
“For Fifty Years a Faithful Public Servant.” These words have been preserved in the Rec Center today, as you can see.
But the words that are missing are, I think, an amazing and now vanished testimony to the city of the early 20th century, to the attitudes of that time, and of course to the man who was Hiram Edgerton.
The left hand panel facing Backus read:
FOR THE GREAT CITY BUILDER
WHOSE MANY ACHIEVEMENTS
INCREASED HUMAN HAPPINESS
AND ENRICHED THE LIVES OF ALL OUR PEOPLE
And the text of the right hand panel read:
HE HAD A VISION
OF THE CITY BEAUTIFUL
AND GAVE HIS BEST
TO MAKE THE DREAM COME TRUE
UPON HIS HEART WAS WRITTEN
In smaller letters below was this:
WHOEVER WOULD BE FIRST AMONG YOU
SHALL BE SERVANT OF ALL
On the park side, the back side, of the monument, there was more text. The left hand panel read:
HE MOST DESERVES A MEMORIAL
WHO DOES NOT NEED ONE – WHO
HIMSELF A MONUMENT
The right hand panel read:
BEYOND HIS EARTHLY YEARS
BECAUSE HE SERVED
AND SERVING WON THAT GREATEST
THE PEOPLE’S LOVE
I saved the punchline for the end, where it belongs. In the center panel on the back side was a quote from the Mayor himself. The words were from his farewell address, as he left the office of Mayor, December 21, 1921. He said:
MY CONFIDENCE IN THE FUTURE
OF ROCHESTER IS UNBOUNDED
AND MY FAITH IN THE PEOPLE IS
LIMITLESS. I KNOW THEY WILL
PERMIT NO BACKWARD STEPS.
There’s still time, Mr. Mayor.
Now the case is, indeed, closed.