Students enrolled in American Studies 101 (“Intro to American Studies”) at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, were instructed to select a monument and interpret its significance. Among the questions they were asked to consider in this assignment:
- Who promoted your site’s construction and completion? How did they argue for its significance?
- What version of the past does your site present? Alternatively, what does your site tell us about the historic moment in which it was created?
- Why was your site located where it was located?
- What type of behavior does your site inspire among contemporary viewers?
We hope that you enjoy and learn from their research and findings.
Prof. Allan Isaac & Prof. Andy Urban
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
The monument that I chose for the assignment is the Statue of Prince William the Silent. This monument represents a notable figure in Dutch history who played an important role in Dutch independence from Spanish rule, which was an immediate result of the Eighty Years’ War. The statue draws a connection between Prince William and the Dutch roots of Rutgers University. What struck me about this monument was its prominent location and the basis for the cause of it being in such a conspicuous spot on campus.
In Stony Brook, New York, on Harbor Road, resides the Stony Brook Grist Mill. This monument represents a place where colonists once came to have their wheat and corn ground. The Mill is now owned by the Stony Brook Community Fund and Museum. It stands in working condition for visitors around the world to visualize how life was before technological advances.
When I visited the Grist Mill, I was amazed to see such intricate machinery made in a time period with minimal technology. It’s incredible to see the simplicity of a water-powered mill with the complexity of gears and knobs that work the machinery.
After having the pleasure of seeing the process of the machinery working it gave me an understanding of technology and where it developed from. If society went back to minimalism and used an idea such as water-powered machinery, it would lower harmful emissions and conserve energy.
The community of Radburn is located within the town of Fair Lawn on the opposite side of the Broadway District. It runs north to the border of Glen Rock and east on the border of Paramus. Radburn represents a community that was specifically planned to meet peoples’ needs during the Motor Age in the 1920s. Radburn’s community is independent from the town of Fair Lawn, although it is still a part of the town.
I was struck by the fact that Radburn’s community was built specifically so that its residents would have all of their general necessities, and be able to walk to all of them without crossing any major roads. Also, the way each street was designed to have its houses facing parks and playgrounds gives me a sense of safety in the community that I had never seen in another community.
“William the Silent” is located on Voorhees Mall closer to Seminary Pl, a part of the College Avenue Campus. The monument itself represents the Dutch roots that New Brunswick, as well as Rutgers, has in its lineage. William of Orange-Nassau County was a leader and advocate for freedom of religion. His defiant stare is odd in relation to his title, “the Silent,” which insinuates that he would be quiet or otherwise calm. Researching a part of this Rutgers legacy led me to our very own Archives and Special Collections department, a fascinating and truly historical resource.
This monument was designed by Kyle Galante to commemorate the lives lost on September Eleventh. It is located at town hall on the corner of Holmdel Road and Crawfords Corner in Holmdel, New Jersey. The monument has two bronze hands that open towards the sky to signify we are in God’s care. It also has the names of all people from Holmdel that were lost on 9/11. This monument is a place for people to go and reflect on their lost loved ones.
Studying this monument taught me that monuments have a large impact on small towns. This monument pulls together many different people from all over town to reflect on that tragic day. It helps create the culture of the town. The most surprising part about the monument is the two beams of light shine from the palms of the hands to represent to two fallen towers. Every September 11th the lights stay on all night and many people come to remember and pray for lost family members.
The 9/11 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation is located off of Eagle Rock Avenue in West Orange, New Jersey. Although the entrance is located in West Orange, the reservation is spread through West Orange, Montclair, and Verona. The large memorial consists of eight important parts: a bronze bald eagle on top of a tree with its wings spread open, a bronze statue of a boy holding a lantern, facing the skyline, a plaque that reads, “Remembrance and Rebirth,” a bronze book with the names of all the deceased victims from Essex County, a granite wall engraved with all the names of the deceased serves as a barrier for the edge of the scenic overlook, a bronze statue of a little girl holding a teddy bear, two bronze replicas of a fireman’s helmet and a police officer’s hat, and seven dogwood trees that line a path for walkers to admire.
The thing that struck me most about this monument was the location. The view of the skyline from this spot is absolutely breathtaking. It is also very touching to see all the names of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks.
This monument made me realize that it is just one of the many things that bind us all together as being American.