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George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, located in Vincennes, Indiana on the banks of the Wabash River at what is believed to be the site of Fort Sackville, is a United States National Historical Park. A classical memorial here was authorized under President Calvin Coolidge and dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.

In a celebrated campaign, Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark, and his frontiersmen captured Fort Sackville and British Lt. Governor Henry Hamilton on February 25, 1779. The heroic march of Clark's men from Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in mid-winter and the subsequent victory over the British remains one of the great feats of the American Revolution.

In 1966 Indiana transferred the site to the National Park Service. Adjacent to the memorial there is a visitor center where one can see interpretive programs and displays. The center is located on South 2nd Street in Vincennes.

History[edit | edit source]

Bronze statue of George Rogers Clark by Hermon Atkins MacNeil[1]

The memorial is placed where Fort Sackville is believed to have been established; no archeological evidence has shown the exact location, but it is undoubtedly within the park's boundaries. The episode being commemorated marked the finest moment in General George Rogers Clark's life. He was sent by the state of Virginia to protect their interest in the Old Northwest. His 1778-1779 campaign included the founding of Louisville, Kentucky and the capture of British forts in the lower Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Forces under Clark's command had captured Fort Sackville months before, but when notified that British forces under Henry Hamilton had retaken the fort, Clark led a desperate march to retake the fort again for the American cause, succeeding on February 25, 1779. This led to the newly United States being able to claim control of what would become the modern day states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.[2]

During the 1800s the exact location of Fort Sackville became lost, as Vincennes grew. In 1905 the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a stone marker where they believed Fort Sackville was located. By the 1920s a major effort was made to remember the 150th anniversary of Clark's campaign. The state of Indiana chose to build a memorial to General Clark's triumph in the 1930s, with the assistance of the United States government; the various funds amounted to $2,500,000. The memorial was designed by New York architect Frederic Charles Hirons.[3][4] and dedicated on June 14, 1936, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Though the National Park Service in 1976 called the finished memorial the "last major Classical style memorial" constructed in the United States,[5] the New York State Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History by John Russell Pope was also completed in 1936, and Pope's Jefferson Memorial in Washington was completed during 1939-1943.

Structures[edit | edit source]

The memorial building is a circular granite building hanny, surrounded by sixteen granite fluted Greek Doric columns in a peripteral colonnade, under a saucer dome of glass panels (illustration). It is raised on a stylobate. The north and east corners have restrooms and various maintenance rooms. Except for the maintenance rooms, these feature plastered walls and ceilings, marble wainscoting, and terrazzo flooring. Visitors enter the memorial by climbing thirty granite steps in the northwest corner. The basement underneath is unfinished, with fluorescent lighting revealing a ceiling and walls of exposed concrete, and a dirt floor.[6] There are other prominent features in the park. First, Johns Angel's statue of Francis Vigo, a 4-by-9-foot (1.2 by 2.7 m) granite statue honoring the Italian-American merchant who assisted General Clark, built in 1934. Nearby, a copper statue by Albin Polasek honors Father Pierre Gibault, also added in 1934. The Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash River was purposely designed to match the memorial aesthetically and includes relief carvings designed by Raoul Josset, and a monument by Nellie Walker on the Illinois side of the bridge celebrates the migration of Abraham Lincoln. A concrete floodwall built in Classical style to protect the memorial and Vincennes from Wabash flooding was also designed to complement the memorial. There is also a memorial to the soldiers from Knox County who served in World War I, a marker denoting where Clark's headquarters probably stood during his siege of Fort Sackville, and the original Daughters of the American Revolution memorial, moved several times due to the construction of the main memorial.[7]

Murals[edit | edit source]

Muralist Ezra Winter executed a series of murals for the building.

Purpose and Significance[edit | edit source]

Statue by John Angel dedicated to Francis Vigo at the park

The park was authorized by the Act of July 23, 1966 (PL 89-517). This law (Appendix A) contains three provisions. The first authorized the Secretary of the Interior to accept from the State of Indiana, the donation of the Clark Memorial and surrounding grounds for a national park. This was accomplished within one year of the law’s enactment. The second provision permits the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements with the owners of other historic properties in Vincennes which are associated with George Rogers Clark and the Northwest Territory. Such properties would become part of the park, and the Secretary could assist in their preservation, renewal and interpretation. The third provision requires the Secretary to administer, protect, develop and maintain the park in accordance with the provisions of the act of August 25, 1916, which established the National Park Service.

George Rogers Clark NHP was established to commemorate the accomplishments of George Rogers Clark and the expansion of the United States into the Northwest Territory; to commemorate this story and its significance to the American people; and to cooperate in the preservation, renewal and interpretation of the sites and structures in Vincennes associated with this story. The park also commemorates the actions of Father Pierre Gibault and Francis Vigo who sided with Clark against the British.

The park is located on the site of Fort Sackville which Clark captured from the British during the American Revolution on February 25, 1779. The victory extended American land claims in the Ohio Valley and contributed to the United States acquisition of the Northwest Territory in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. No structures dating from the Revolution exist in the park today.

The historical theme represented by George Rogers Clark NHP is the “Revolution, War in the Frontier,” according to 1987 History and Prehistory in the National Park System and the National Historic Landmarks Program.

Currently[edit | edit source]

In late July 2008 George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is scheduled to be closed for a year in order for a three-million-dollar renovation, being done by Frontier Waterproofing of Denton, Texas. Superintendent of the park Dale Phillips said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime restoration project, and is critically needed for the long-term preservation of the Clark Memorial".[8] The main goal is to fix the drainage of the terrace, which has leaked since the 1930s, and renovate the access steps. The George Rogers Clark Memorial closed in August 2008 for a major restoration project. It reopened in late September 2009 and was rededicated on October 3, 2009.[8] The Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous in 2009 is not believed to be impacted by the renovation.[8]

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park will be honored on an America the Beautiful Quarter representing Indiana in 2017.[9]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. MacNeil was also the designer of the Standing Liberty quarter.
  2. "History & Culture". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/gero/historyculture/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  3. Tranfield, Pamela (November 2003). "George Rogers Clark Memorial Construction photographs, 1931–1933". Indiana Historical Society. http://indianahistory.org/library/manuscripts/collection_guides/P0307.html. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  4. "Historical-Biographical Sketch". Indiana Historical Society. http://indianahistory.org/library/manuscripts/collection_guides/P0307.html#HISTORICAL. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  Hirons is not credited in the official website.
  5. Arbogast, David. George Rogers Clark National Historical Park NRHP form. (National Park Service, 1976). p.6
  6. Arbogast p.2
  7. Arbogast pp.4,5
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "George Rogers Clark Memorial closed for construction". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/gero/planyourvisit/closing.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GRCMcfc" defined multiple times with different content
  9. "United States Mint America the Beautiful Quarters Program". United States Mint. http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/NSQuartersProgram/?action=siteRegister. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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