MEMORIAL LANE: George Washington at Valley Forge

The statue of George Washington at Valley Forge is located at Continental Army Plaza (South 4th and Roebling Streets) near the Williamsburg side entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Located near the Roebling Street approach to the Williamsburg Bridge, this equestrian statue of George Washington depicts the then commander in chief at a low point in the Revolutionary War, when the Continental Army camped for the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.  The 10,000 troops endured a severe winter with shortages of food, clothing, and medicine.  Many died of hunger and disease, but under Washington’s leadership the army emerged stronger and more disciplined in the spring.

The 13-foot bronze statue (atop an 18.8-foot pedestal) was commissioned by U.S Representative James R. Howe and presented to the City in 1906. Howe served two terms, and then became register of Kings County.  The statue was sculpted by Henry Mervin Shrady, a life-long New Yorker who attended Columbia University, and cast at the Roman Bronze Works on Green Street in Greenpoint. Equestrian statues are known to be a challenge to cast because their entire weight must rest on the horse’s legs. The more legs on the ground the easier a weight balance is achieved.  In this statue’s case, four feet touch the ground.

Fun Fact:  Before its restoration in the 1990s, residents asked for the statue to be turned 180 degrees to face Williamsburg and Greenpoint instead of looking south at a bus parking lot and the entrance ramps to the bridge.  But Henry J. Stern, the NYC Parks commissioner at the time, deemed the cost of turning the statue too expensive.  When interviewed for The New York Times piece published on February 20, 1989 he said, “If he faces south, rumpus north. If he faces north, rumpus south. It’s not Doctor Dolittle, it’s not a push-me-pull-you. This is a normal horse, and he can’t face in two directions at once.”  Stern also informed that statues in the Northern Hemisphere typically face south to catch the sun, and that General Washington isn’t snubbing the community but leading it.

Click Here to see a 1910 postcard of the statue.

Author: The Greenline

Your monthly source for North Brooklyn community news covering Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. Currently 13,000 copies are distributed throughout the community free of charge. Articles published with The Greenline byline includes content cited directly from press releases or published statements and/or is the work of a combination of vetted authors or sources.

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