Monumental celebration: Bennington Battle Monument marks 125th anniversary
BENNINGTON — To walk up the 412 steps of the Bennington Battle Monument in 1891 cost but a dime.
On Saturday, visitors to the state historic site could once again pay the original entry fee of 10 cents in observance of the 125th anniversary of the monument's dedication.
A ceremony celebrated the dedication, which took place on Aug. 19, 1891, with speakers in period clothing, a barbershop quartet, carriage rides, and a "monumental" birthday cake.
Well over 100 people were at the site as the program kicked off at about 2:30 p.m. Under the shade of trees, the national anthem was sung by Kiah Morris, state representative for Bennington District 2-2.
Laura Trieschmann, state historic preservation officer, told attendees that a procession of dignitaries took 30 minutes to pass through downtown on that fateful afternoon 125 years ago.
Those involved included U.S. President Benjamin Harrison; politicians from Vermont, New Hampshire and other states; armed forces members; and civic groups. "The Grand Procession" was estimated to have 3,000 people. As many as 30,000 were attended the actual dedication, according to accounts.
The town "presented a holiday appearance, nearly every house and place of business on the line of march, and streets upon which the formations were made, being one line of
flags and other decorations," states "The Dedication Of The Bennington Battle Monument," a record published by the Vermont Centennial Commission in 1892.
The orator on that hot summer day in 1891 was Edward J. Phelps, a diplomat, lawyer and 1890 Democratic gubernatorial candidate from Burlington.
Don Miller, of the Friends of the Bennington Battle Monument, wore a gray suit and top hat as he read several excerpts from Phelps' speech.
"If battles were to be accounted great in proportion to the numbers engaged, Bennington would be but small," he said, quoting a section of Phelps' speech that compared it to those at Marathon, Waterloo and Gettysburg. "But it... is the cause that is fought for, the heroism and self sacrifice displayed, and the consequences which follow, moral and political as well as military, that give significance to conflicts of arms."
"Judged by these standards," he continued, "Bennington may well be reckoned among the memorable battles of the world."
Many attendees on Saturday were excited to see a meticulously decorated cake replica of the monument. Jenica McCevoy, owner, baker and decorator with Benningtonbased Fancy Pants Cakes, put the cake together this week. It stood 32 inches tall, with a base of two inches and the monument standing about 30. Wilcox Ice Cream of Sunderland donated the frozen treat.
Several young ladies wore Victorian-era clothing that was in vogue around the time of the dedication, including outfits for bicycling and tennis and a day dress.
Children could construct their own "monument" out of cardboard blocks. A bubble station with different wands was also a hit for kids.
Marylou Chicote, the monument's site administrator, called the event and its attendees wonderful. She sent many thanks to those that included the friends' group and its members and officers, employees at the monument and in Montpelier, sponsors and volunteers.
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.
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