Filed Under Public Art

Oliver Hazard Perry Monument

Perry's monuments trace his movements to defend the United States during the War of 1812. Cleveland is among several cities to commemorate his heroics.

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British off the shores of Put-in-Bay, just 70 miles from Cleveland, during the War of 1812. The sounds of the cannon fire could be heard by Cleveland residents, drawing them to the shores of Lake Erie as Perry’s squadron defeated the British force on September 10, 1813 to win control of the western Great Lakes. Perry’s actions during the naval battle, epitomized by his victory message, "We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop," won him hero’s attention and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1814. Commodore Perry continued to serve in the United States Navy after the war. He died of yellow fever during a diplomatic mission to Venezuela in 1819 and was buried with honors in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Perry moved about the United States North Coast in life, duty, and commemorative spirit as a warrior hero. Many cities along the way chose to recognize and honor him.

Forty-four years after the Battle of Lake Erie, Cleveland’s City Council and citizens resolved to honor Commodore Perry with a monument. Cleveland was first to commemorate Perry, but many would follow. On September 10, 1860, sculptor William Walcutt’s Commodore Perry statue was dedicated and centered in Public Square. Eighteen years later, it was moved to the southeast quadrant of Public Square. The marble rendering remained there until 1892 when the Soldiers & Sailors Monument displaced it from the Square. It stayed in storage a couple of years until it found a home in Wade Park in University Circle. After a nearly twenty-year stay at Wade Park, the statue again moved to make room for the Cleveland Museum of Art. It relocated in 1913 to Gordon Park, where it spent a little time in front of the Cleveland Aquarium before moving elsewhere in Gordon Park. Due to severe wear and tear at the hands of Lake Erie’s weather, two bronze replicas were cast of the Perry statue in 1929. One replaced the marble original in Gordon Park. In 1991, this Commodore Perry bronze monument would make his final journey to his current home in Fort Huntington Park in downtown Cleveland. 

The second Walcutt bronze replica was sold to Perry’s home state of Rhode Island where it stands outside the Statehouse in Providence. The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Western Reserve Historical Society both declined offers to house the original. It was eventually given to the city of Perrysburg, Ohio, where, in 1937 another bronze replica was cast for that city’s park. The original statue has been on loan to the National Park Service since 2002 at the Perry Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Meanwhile, Perry’s hometown, Newport, Rhode Island, commissioned a statue rendering of the Commodore by William G. Turner. Unlike the crossed arm pose of Walcutt’s work, Turner’s pose featured the moment Perry stepped aboard the Niagara after leaving his heavily damaged USS Lawrence – right arm raised and the battle flag slung over his left shoulder. It was dedicated on September 10, 1885, and stands in Newport’s Eisenhower Park. Nearby, his relocated grave reveals Perry’s travels in death. He was reinterred in Newport’s Island Cemetery and memorialized with an obelisk grave marker.

As a naval commander in 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry first traveled to Buffalo, New York, to build his fleet. Proximity to the British forces across the river, drove him to Erie, Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle to complete the fleet. Like Cleveland, both cities chose to commemorate him with statues and monuments. Buffalo features a statue by Charles Niehaus at Front Park along Lake Erie while Erie features a Turner statue replica in the downtown area and an obelisk victory monument on Presque Isle where Perry’s fleet was assembled.

Perry's statue movements in and around Cleveland and elsewhere were first noted by a prophetic local poet in 1879 upon the Public Square relocation:

"O, Perry, mighty leader, yes an' terror of the foe, The hour has come when off your perch, they say you've got to go; For nearly twenty years you've stood, upon your base up there..."

Commodore Perry has landed at several homes from his East Coast hometown to his victory trail along Lake Erie.

Images

The Battle of Lake Erie This 1873 painting by William Henry Powell depicts Commodore Perry during the Battle of Lake Erie. Perry defeated the British just 70 miles away from Cleveland off the shores of Put-in-Bay, where the sounds of the cannon fire could be heard by Cleveland residents. This painting, which hangs in the U.S. Capitol, is a larger version of Powell's Perry's Victory on Lake Erie (1865) that hangs in the Ohio Statehouse. Source: U.S. Senate Art Collection, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. Creator: William Henry Powell Date: 1873
Chromolithograph Based on Daguerreotype by C. W. Stimpson This rendering shows the Commodore Perry statue, sculpted by William Walcutt in 1860, as it was envisioned for Public Square. This view suggests that the monument was considered for the western edge of the square, but instead it was placed in the center of the square. The lithograph was made several months before the monument was placed in Public Square. Source: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library, digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7db9-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99 Creator: T. Jones and Sons (Publisher), Stimpson, C. W. (Photographer), Sarony, Major & Knapp Lith. (Lithographer) Date: 1859
Abraham Lincoln Cortege on Public Square Lincoln's funeral train stopped in Cleveland on its way home to Illinois. The President lied in state on Public Square next to Commodore Perry's Monument on April 28, 1865. Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection. Date: April 28. 1865
Commodore Perry Statue by Walcutt Walcutt's monument to Perry was erected in the center of Public Square in 1860 but moved in 1878 to the southeast quadrant. As it turned out, the move may have saved Perry from standing in the center of a future traffic jam, but the new location placed the monument in the way of the chosen site for the new monument to veterans of the Civil War from Cuyahoga County. The two figures flanking Perry depict and midshipman and a cabin boy. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1866
Commodore Perry Statue, Monument Square, Cleveland, Ohio After occupying the center of Cleveland Monument Square for 18 years, Perry was moved to the southeast quadrant, later to be removed for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The Cushing Block along lower Euclid Avenue rises behind him in this nighttime scene. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1878
Perry Monument in its Second Location The monument had been in the southeast quadrant of Public Square for just six years when this photo was taken. If the buildings behind it don't look familiar, it's because the Cleveland Union Terminal (Terminal Tower) was still about four and a half decades in the future. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1885
Commodore Perry at Wade Park In 1892, Walcutt's work was relocated to Wade Park, later to be relocated again. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collectio
Waiting for a Home This image shows the original statue stored in a shed at Gordon Park awaiting its next home. Many organizations declined to take the statue and here it sat until it was given to Perrysburg, OH. Another bronze replica was made for Perrysburg as the original marble statue continued to deteriorate. It is currently on loan to the National Park Service's Visitor's Center at Perry's Victory Memorial near Put-In-Bay. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
In Gordon Park After nearly 20 years at Wade Park, the statue was moved to make room for the Cleveland Art Museum. It was relocated to Gordon Park, as shown above. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
A Wreath for Perry Since its time at Public Square, the Perry Monument has always been the location of the Early Settlers Association's celebration of the Battle of Lake Erie and the victory of Commodore Perry's fleet over the British. Every year in mid-September, a ceremony is held and a wreath is laid at the base of the monument. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial National Monument Located on South Bass Island at Put-In-Bay, Ohio, this monument memorializes those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie. The Doric column on the National Park Service site is the largest in the world. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Perry Monument at Presque Isle, Erie, Pennsylvania Old Wolverine Training Ship and Perry Monument, Peninsula Drive, at night, Erie, Pa., ca. 1930s Source: Boston Public Library ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/gx41nh386
Commmodore Perry Statue at Buffalo's Front Park A tribute to Commodore Perry overlooks Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY. The statue by Charles Niehaus was dedicated in 1916. Source: Photo image by Chuck LaChiusa. Date: 2015 (images)
Commodore Perry, Newport, Rhode Island The Perry Monument in Newport stands in Washington Square, shown in this circa 1930s postcard view. Source: Boston Public Library, ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/h128nj349
Perry Square, Erie Pennsylvania O. H. Perry stands in Perry Square, Erie Pennsylvania

Location

Metadata

Nick Oreh and Jim Lanese, “Oliver Hazard Perry Monument,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 15, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/484.