Sunday, July 18, 2010

Monument for Elias Leavenworth

Now that I look on the past few entries, I think the blog is getting rather dismal: an array of demolished or severely altered buildings.  It leaves the correct impression that most of Silsbee's buildings are gone but doesn't really celebrate those fine structures that are still standing.  This entry is a relatively "unknown" work by the architect but a real gem that you can get very close to and touch.
While working on the mortuary chapel for Oakwood Cemetery, Joseph Silsbee worked closely with cemetery director and notable Syracuse businessman and politician, Elias Leavenworth.  Leavenworth had some strong opinions about how the chapel should look and spent over a year visiting chapels for similar use across the country.  Silsbee must have made a big impression on Leavenworth.  The year that the chapel was completed, it was announced that Silsbee was working on a monument for Leavenworth himself.   

The Leavenworth-Forman Monument sits on a prominent hill in Dedication Valley, the oldest and most distinguished part of Oakwood Cemetery. The design incorporates the names of four families: Leavenworth, Forman, Alexander, and Mather.  These are the surnames of the parents of Elias' wife, Mary, as well as his own.  Mary Leavenworth's father was Syracuse founder Joshua Forman and her mother was Mary Alexander.  Elias' mother was Lucinda Mather.  The site has historical significance for the City of Syracuse as it is the resting place of one of it's founding fathers as well as one of it's most important citizens.        

Constructiuon on the monument was completed in 1882.  The design of the monument is a personal rendition of Gothic architecture in the vein of contemporaries like Frank Furness or James Renwick.  It is a massive stone structure and practically every surface and architectural element is treated with rich carving and detail.    

Decorative elements like the carved stone scuppers, granite colonnades, and richly carved capitols and pediments have many similarities to those on the Oakwood Chapel as well as the White Memorial Building, both earlier examples of Silsbee's work in the Gothic idiom.

It is made of Onondaga limestone with granite trim and detail.  It is a pavillion-type memorial with an outer structure engraves with the names of each of the families.  This forms a canopy over a red granite monument further memorializing the family entombed there.  The monument has some damage and is in need of attention but it does not deter from the remarkable nature of a work and you can still experience it in much the same way that it was meant to be experienced when it was constructed.

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