Dedham War Memorial Monument, 1931

Granite figural relief and carved decorations
Architect, Howard Walker

A large crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony of a memorial erected to honor those Dedham soldiers who died in the service of their country in the World War. The crowd was “reminded that the monument was for the people of Dedham, for those who had passed on, and those who were to follow.” (Dedham Transcript May 22, 1931)

A committee had been named who gave the project two years of thought and discussion, finally choosing a design by Frederick Warren Allen. Working with architect C. Howard Walker, a final compromise was reached concerning the stone tower on which the memorial would be carved and the details of the figure and the decorations. The committee chairman concluded, “The monument is unique and individual in design … and something that cannot be easily copied by other towns.”

Patriotism was strong at that time in history and the American spirit craved expression of the ideals of courage, bravery, service and sacrifice for one’s country that memorials like this Dedham World War Memorial provided. “It is impressive and will serve to make us better Americans, better men, better women.” It will be a constant reminder that lives were lost “to the end that liberty may be enjoyed by all Americans.”

PAX reads the inscription, the idealistic goal of war. Victory and triumph are ours, indicates the raised arm and the palm branch. After the horrors of war, these hopeful symbols are uplifting. Allen believed that a sculpture, if it is perfect and beautiful in itself, uplifts the viewer and gives a feeling of comfort. Just the composition itself can offer a sensation of harmony and balance. The inscription was changed from “Pax Victis” or “Peace Victorius” to simply Pax, or Peace.

The female figure stands erect and facing forward with her feet together. Her bare left arm is straight and raised above her head, the sleeve falling onto her shoulder and her palm facing outward. Her right arm is bare to the bent elbow with a bent wrist holding a palm branch, its leaves arching over her head. The figure is draped with a Greek-inspired garment in a more modern graphic art-deco style of repeated lines and pleats rather than the flowing curves of classical sculpture. He used a similarly modern fabric treatment on the central figure for his Courthouse pediment design in New York City.

The strong and beautiful face is reminiscent of St. Gauden’s “Head of Victory” and D.C.French’s “Statue of the Republic,” with hair and a crown of laurel framing her face, her lips parted and gazing outward. The long neck is framed on each side with a long curl and ribbon from the garland. Her garment is adorned at the neck with a spread-winged eagle clasp. Her bare feet are in sandals. The figure with its arched header has been carved from a single block of what is presumed to be Stonington Granite with a beveled base portion on which she stands. The figure is set back from the level of the corner blocks, that single block cemented into the stacked blocks that make up the tapered and stepped tower. The base, made in three pieces placed securely side by side, has molded details, the sides above it angling toward the main shaft. The corners, above the base to the top, flank the inscription block and figure block in three pieces of different sizes. The space between the corners on the sides is stepped back and filled with five rectangular blocks, the one just above the base at the level of the inscription block thicker and beveled at the top, and the one at the top decorated by a banded wreath of leaves and berries.

The original design was more ambitious. Budget constrictions required a smaller memorial. The stone tower designed and drawn by Allen was larger and more complicated in its stepped panels. The figure was more detailed, more serious in its demeanor and more complex in its draping. The details on the architectural elements were also more complex. “Even though the sculpture faces almost directly South, the modeling is strong enough to seem three dimensional. For the 15 foot figure the actual cutting depth is five inches. After frequent viewings, the concept is challenging; peace is an objective to be sought with fervor.” (Smith)

“In his memorials he exemplified his belief as to what dedicatory sculpture should be. We quote him from various occasions:

‘I hope that after this war the town and cities of this country will not again be loaded with horrors – morbid and gruesome war scenes. How much better to erect some thing inspirational and noble like the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common.’” (Smith)

Related – On War Memorials: Allen’s Theory and Opinions

See also: Roslindale War Memorial

Publication: Dedham Transcript, May 22, 1931
Publication: A History of Dedham, pp.508-510
Size: 15’ figure in relief, carving depth 5”, on a stepped rectangular tower of smooth granite blocks, Base size 92 ½ in x 72 in.
Location: Dedham MA, corner of East Street and Whiting Avenue
Inscription: Carved into the stone in a serif typeface, positioned on a block beneath the feet of the figure and above the angled base: “Erected by the town of Dedham In honor of those who died and in gratitude to those who served in the World War 1917 1918 And as an inspiration to those of the future”
PAX carved at the top.

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