8/3/2016 - Hackensack War Monument Restoration

Hackensack War Monument Restoration

The “Hackensack War Monument” (also referred to as the “Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial”) recently underwent a restoration. Located on the Courthouse Green, the statue was sculpted in 1924 by Charles Henry Niehaus (1855-1935). Niehaus was a renowned sculptor.

The base of the monument presents four relief sculptures of war scenes: General Washington at the Battle of Monmouth, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I.

The restoration was undertaken by Robert Neal Carpenter, a sculptor, consultant and lecturer. Mr. Carpenter painstakingly cleaned the bronze statue, waxed and buffed the bronze statue taking special care in problem areas. He also cleaned the limestone base several times, taking great care not to damage any of the reliefs. After the cleaning, Mr. Carpenter applied a “consolidation material” to the stone in order to reintroduce the “binder” holding the stone particles together. Over the years, acid rain eroded these particles causing many of the relief surfaces to wear away. Mr. Carpenter then applied a water-proof coat that will extend the life of the consolidation and also enhance the protection of the stone surface while enabling the stone to “breath”.

No attempts were made to re-carve fine details lost to time as this could further damage the artist’s original work which was highly lauded. The “consolidation” will now preserve what is left which still presents nicely and remains very recognizable.

“We are very pleased to get this work done and preserve this fitting tribute for decades to come,” said Mayor John Labrosse.

As you will read below, the present monument is not what the sculptor originally proposed in 1923. Hackensack’s community influenced the final design considerably.

The total cost of restoration was $14,250 with a portion covered by a Bergen County History Grant for Special Projects.

Funding has been made possible in part by the Bergen County Department of Parks and the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State, through grant funds administered by the Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs. 


HACKENSACK is a pretty suburban town in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York. Its people, like the people of so many other American communities, are eager to do honor to their sons and brothers, husbands and fathers who served their country in the Great War. Money to erect a soldiers and sailors' memorial was raised and the committee in charge invited sculptors to submit designs for it. Out of scores of praise-worthy plans, the committee, after careful deliberation, selected one by Charles Henry Niehaus, one of the most distinguished of American sculptors. The committee was delighted with Mr. Niehaus's model and thought it would make a memorial monument of which the town might well feel proud. But when the model of the statue came to be shown to the people of Hackensack a storm of indignant protests burst over the heads of the committee and Mr. Niehaus that shook the village almost to its very foundations.

From the criticisms made, it seemed there was hardly anything admirable about the statue which the committee had found so satisfactory and which Niehaus considered one of his masterpieces. The clay figure which the sculptor had so painstakingly modeled was torn, figuratively speaking, limb from limb. What Mr. Niehaus had designed and the committee had accepted was the figure of a woman, heavily and substantially draped and bearing a broken sword and some flowers in her left hand. On her head is a helmet, which, the sculptor says, is like those the warriors of ancient Greece wore and this the committee considered very appropriate for its solemn purpose, but a great number of Hackensack's citizens didn't think so. They objected not only to one but too many things about the figure. Never, they declared, would they be happy with this figure standing on the historic village green where George Washington camped during the Revolution. It was, they said, a wholly inadequate attempt at honoring the town's gallant war heroes. To begin with, they said it wasn't stern enough. Such a mild-visaged lady, bearing flowers and a broken sword, might better be named "Peace" and kept for some other purpose than a tribute to fighting men.

Furthermore, they considered it a mistake to have a woman's figure used for the memorial--it was men who did the fighting and the statue, they felt, should have been that of a soldier, and preferably a soldier in action. How, they asked, would passing automobilists ever guess that this was a soldiers' monument? What was objected to most of all was the helmet. "Grecian helmet nothing!" one ex-service man was heard to declare. "That's a German helmet--the very same thing we used to take shots at from the trenches." And so it went. After his conscientious effort to please, Mr. Niehaus was dismayed to hear his work scornfully described as a "woman bundled in clothes, wearing a German helmet and holding up her hands as if to cry 'Kamerad!'"

This is only one of many instances which show that the life of a famous sculptor is not the easy, pleasant thing.