One of the many great things about Harrisonburg is all the history. The downtown area alone is home to 100+ contributing historic structures, earning it its national historic district designation. In celebration of Veterans Day, we’re highlighting one historic structure in particular.
For over 98 years, visitors entering downtown via Martin Luther King Jr. Way have been greeted by a piece of history in the form of the “Liberty” statue, a World War I monument depicting a bronze statue of a seated Lady Liberty, perched stoically in the median of South Liberty and South Main streets. This statue, which was erected on July 4, 1924 and saw its 98th anniversary this past July 2021, serves as a memorial to the 49 Harrisonburg-Rockingham men who lost their lives serving their country during the first World War. In addition to the names of those 49 men, the words “They Tasted Death In Youth That Liberty Might Grow” are also inscribed on the base of the monument.
The monument is owned by the Dayton American Legion, Post 27. For nearly 100 years, the monument has been a reminder of thousands who fought for the freedom of Americans, and Dayton American Legion members hope to maintain the statue, so it will see 100 more years. Naturally, an outdoor bronze sculptural monument will experience some level of corrosion and deterioration over a period of 98 years. Members of American Legion, Post 27 made an effort to clean the historic statue in 2007, but their attempts did not yield the desired results. However, thanks to a granite donation made by a local business, Post 27 was able to successfully repair and replace many of the deteriorated capstones surrounding the monument.
When Ben Ridder, member of American Legion, Post 27, walked into the HDR office a few months ago to distribute information on the World War I memorial restoration project he’s taken the lead on, we decided to find a way to help him get the word out and bring attention to a long-standing (or, in Lady Liberty’s case, sitting) piece of downtown Harrisonburg’s history. Today seemed as fitting a day as any to share the story of the bronze Lady Liberty statue, at South Liberty and South Main, preserving the memory of the 49 local men who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.
To learn more about the Liberty Monument restoration project or to simply thank the veterans at Post 27, contact them at Dayton American Legion, Post 27, 3021 John Wayland Hwy, Dayton, VA 22821.