Sewickley Fame Sculpture

Sewickley's oldest monument is in a way its newest landmark. Until the dawn of this century, the town's tribute to those who died in the Civil War was visible only to those who drove up the steep hill to the Sewickley Cemetery. In a prominent place, high aloft and looking eastward, stands the statue of Fame.

Fame

With the dawn of the 21st century, somebody put forth the idea of cutting down the foliage in front of this work by Isaac Broome, and suddenly on a good day Fame is visible from down below. On a clear day, it is visible from the Sewickley Bridge.

While it is true that due to the elements and acid rain, Fame has lost the trumpet she was holding when the statue was dedicated in 1866, the lady has never lost the respect of those who gather at her pedestal every Memorial Day to remember those who have served in military service.

Sewickley is different from other Western Pennsylvania towns that placed their Civil War monuments in the center of the square. And unlike others, Sewickley's memorial to its sons is not a cookie-cutter statue of a Union soldier with rifle standing at attention.

Sewickley held a competition among the sculptors and selected the likeness of a woman, the winged embodiment of Fame, holding a trumpet in one hand and a laurel wreath in the other, as the winner. Young Isaac Broome (1835-1922) was no doubt inspired by the lines of a poem familiar to those of the Civil War era:

On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tears are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The Bivouac of the Dead.

In Broome's statue, Fame is elevated on a shaft decorated with Ionic columns and set on a base into which were chiseled the names of the local men who died and were wounded in the conflict.

Hauling Cannon up Broad street to Sewickley Cemetary, 1905

In 1905, an addition was made in the circle that surrounds the statue. Four cannons that had been mounted at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor to serve as siege guns during the Civil War were hauled up the cemetery hill to guard the statue of Fame. To cover the cost of placing these massive guns at Fame's feet, a local thespian group acted in a war drama by Bronson Howard entitled Shenandoah. A repeat performance was held for a Pittsburgh audience.

Unfortunately, in 1942, it was deemed necessary to sacrifice the massive Rodman guns around Fame's pedestal to a World War II scrap drive.

Fame, pre-1942, with cannons in place

By 1989, it was evident that something had to be done to retard the deteriorating condition of this venerable work of art. At that time, Fame was given a facelift by Dennis and Craine Associated, Cambridge, Mass., who had been engaged to save sculptures at The Carnegie in Pittsburgh. In a piggyback deal, Sewickley Cemetery engaged the firm and received contributions from the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, American Legion and Kiwanis.

But as with most facelifts, the improvement was only temporary. Soon, it was evident drastic measures should be taken. Enter Citizens for Soldiers, a civic group headed by Carole Ford.

That group replaced Fame in granite on July 12, 2005, the 139th anniversary of the original raising.

Citizens for Soldiers, a non-profit organization, receives tax-exempt contributions.
Contact Citizens for Soldiers, Fame Fund, P. O. Box 293, Sewickley, PA 15143.

- B.G.Y.S.

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The mission of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society is to promote interest in and to record, collect, preserve, and document the history of the Sewickley Valley.

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