A lonely Bronx monument to a World War I battle

The Bronx Supreme Court Building is an enormous Art Deco totem of justice—a limestone and copper fortress with a magnificent terrace featuring marble figures representing law, victory, and sacrifice.

But off to a corner on the terrace near the Grand Concourse and in sight of Yankee Stadium is a humble monument commemorating a century-old battle.

It’s a keystone marking a crucial episode during the Great War—the July 1918 battle of Chateau Thierry. In this French village northeast of Paris, American forces helped the French beat back the German offensive.

The keystone “is from an arch of the old bridge at Chateau Thierry, gloriously and successfully defended by American troops,” the plaque on the granite base reads.

The monument looks like many other modest, mostly forgotten memorials around the city. But there’s a story behind how it ended up here, and it has more to do with the threat of World War II than honoring bravery in World War I.

“In 1938, the French government feared the intentions of Nazi Germany and gave the keystone as a gift to the United States in an attempt to gain American sympathy,” writes Lloyd Ultan and Shelley Olsen in The Bronx: The Ultimate Guide to New York’s Beautiful Borough.

“Using the auspices of a New York City American Legion post, this was ultimately decided to be the site of the gift. It was installed with parade, pomp, and ceremony in 1940, but by that time, World War II had begun and the French Republic was in great jeopardy.”

But why the Bronx? Perhaps it had to do with the World War I hospital and Army training camp then located farther north in the borough, on the site of today’s Montefiore Medical Center.

The hospital and camp was called Chateau Thierry, after the famous battle, according to Northwest Bronx by Bill Twomey and Thomas X. Casey.

Interestingly, there’s also the Chateau Thierry apartments on Union Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn—built in 1923.

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8 Responses to “A lonely Bronx monument to a World War I battle”

  1. Zoé Says:

    This is a beautiful building. The bright yellow elements are gilt copper? (gilding/gold)

  2. Velvethead Says:

    Nice pick of a story. Thank you.

  3. David H Lippman Says:

    Legendary battle at the time, forgotten now, like most of WW1, sadly.

  4. Carolyn Says:

    Sad this stone was for gotten. I saw this stone today. I have seem this many time but never stop to read the story of this stone until the day. Thanks for reminding us how this was a very important event.

  5. Tara at Beach Expressions Says:

    Did you ever look into why they put it at this location?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      That still seems to be a mystery…maybe it just worked out with the new building opening and heralding a new era.

  6. David H Lippman Says:

    I expect that a big reason may have been the presence of the US 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” whose regiments were drawn from Fort Hamilton’s Regular Army units. Until the 1st was moved to Texas, the division was based in Fort Hamilton and it had a long association with New York City.

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