The Bronx River Soldier
During the last decade of the 1800s, John Grignola carved this granite statue of a Civil War Union soldier for Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. After years of neglect, WPA workers located the statue in the Bronx River, refurbished it, and moved it to another Bronx River location.
According to New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation, the statue never made it into the Woodlawn Cemetery, either because it was damaged or because it was rejected by the cemetery. John B. Lazzari, owner of “a local tombstone quarry and monuments yard,” purchased the statue and displayed “..it on his property on the west bank of the Bronx River, just south of Gun Hill Road.” Because of this it is commonly referred to as “Bronx River Soldier”. In 1964 the statue toppled into the Bronx River. The Parks Department later moved it to Valentine-Varian House, which serves as a museum for the Bronx Historical Society (New York City Department of Parks and Recreation).
In her book entitled “The Politics of Urban Beauty: New York and Its Art Commission,” Michele H. Bogart writes that pressure from the National Sculpture Society and the Federal Art Project forced the Arts Commission of the City of New York and the Parks Department to embark “…on a coordinated plan to survey and restore the City’s monuments using WPA manpower” (page 276).
With the support of the Work Progress Administration (WPA) the New York City Parks Department launched a Monuments Restoration Project that lasted from 1934 to 1937. Karl Gruppe was the chief sculptor for the project (New York City Department of Parks and Recreation). The Bronx River Soldier statue was almost certainly one of the monuments restored as a result of this project.
National Archives and Records Administration, Negative 8036-C National Archives and Records Administration, Negative 8035-C "New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Valentine Varian House, Bronx River Soldier ", last accessed October 2015 "The Politics of Urban Beauty: New York and its Art Commission" by Michele H. Bogart, last accessed October 2015 "New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Monuments and Conservation Program ", last accessed October 2015
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I think that the Bronx River Soldier is my Great Grandfather Andrew Wiesler. He was in the Union Army during the Civil War and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. He died in 1911. He lived on E231st off of White Plains Rd. I have a photo of him in his Civil War uniform. Statue looks just like him.