Bunker Hill Monument
Site Dates: 1826-1842
Site Designer(s): Robert Mills; Horatio Greenough; Solomon Willard
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The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775 on and around Breed’s Hill during the Siege of Boston. Nineteen years later, an 18-foot Tuscan pillar surmounted by a gilt urn was erected in memory of Dr. Joseph Warren (1741-1775), a hero of the battle, by the members of his Masonic Lodge. In 1823 a group of prominent Massachusetts citizens formed the Bunker Hill Monument Association for the purpose of creating a more ambitious memorial commensurate with the battle’s national importance. The Association envisioned “a simple, majestic, lofty, and permanent monument, which shall carry down to remote ages a testimony…to the heroic virtue and courage of those men who began and achieved the independence of their country.”  In order to protect the battlefield from encroaching development as the local population grew, the Association’s standing committee purchased 15 acres on the slope of Breed’s Hill and authorized Solomon Willard, a stone worker and builder, to draw the plan for a 221-foot column.
The committee subsequently changed course, opening a design competition in 1825 which attracted 50 entries. Although a column had been specified, a variety of alternative forms were submitted. Robert Mills, an architect who had previously designed the Washington Monument in Baltimore, submitted plans for a column as well as an obelisk, expressing his preference for the latter due to its “lofty character, great strength, and…fine surface for inscriptions.”  Along with inscriptions, the monument was to be ornamented with numerous decorative devices — shields, stars, spears, and wreaths — which could be viewed from a series of platforms around the base and shaft of the obelisk. Horatio Greenough (1805-1852), a student at Harvard University who went on to become a noted sculptor, also submitted a design for an obelisk. In his memoirs, published in 1852, Greenough observed: “The obelisk has to my eye a singular aptitude in its form and character to call attention to a spot memorable in history. It says but one word, but it speaks loud. If I understand its voice, it says, Here! It says no more.” 
Following extensive debate over the architectural form best suited to communicate the heroic, memorial, and patriotic themes of the monument, the committee determined that the obelisk was “most congenial to republican institutions.”  Willard received the commission to construct the monument, which he originally designed with an Egyptian Revival base. Lack of funds required simplification of Willard's design and the selling of most of the land purchased by the Association. Only the summit of the hill was preserved for the monument grounds.  Landscape improvements carried out between 1842 and 1847 included grading, planting trees and hedges, laying sidewalks, and installing iron fences. 
- Greenough, Horatio, c. 1851
- 79"A national monument to Washington has been designed and is in process of construction A lithographic print of this design is before the public It represents an obelisk rising out of a low circular building whose exterior presents a Greek colonnade of the Doric order A fac simile of the endorsement of some of our most distinguished citizens recommends this design to their fellow countrymen I propose to examine the invention.
- "The prominent peculiarity of the design before us is the intermarriage of an Egyptian monument...with a Greek structure or one of Greek elements. I do not think it is in the power of art to effect such an amalgamation without corrupting and destroying the special beauties and characters of the two elements. The one, simple even to monotony, may be defined a gigantic expression of unity. The other, a combination of organized parts assembled for a common object. The very perfection of their forms, as exponents of so distinct characters, makes them protest against juxtaposition.
- 80 "If the union of Egyptian mass and weight combination and harmony with Greek be heterodox, the order in which they are displayed here is even more strikingly in violation of propriety. The complex, subdivided, comparatively light Greek stucture, is placed as a basis, a foundation. The Egyptian mass of stone rises above it.
arrangement is esta Stated That I must think palpable absurdity STI It is Demonstrated Those That May be urged us weaker and more slender columns to massive foundation veil Within them We had guessed Because esta Already a miracle alone sustain the weight Otherwise Could The pillars hide the strength of the structure Their Hence it as an architectural feature impertinence It is incumbent upon edifices first to be strong secondly to look strong We have read of a colossus with feet of brass of clay and the image is striking To an Egyptian architect sustained weight in appearance by Greek pillars That is not less so buildings in rising from the earth be broad and simple at Their foundations That They grow lighter not only in fact but in expression As They ascend is a principle established The laws of gravitation are at the root of esta The spire axiom it obeys The obelisk is ITS simplest expression waiving the impropriety of Doric colonnade basis for
- 80 " The pillars hide the strength of the structure hence their impertinence as an architectural feature It is incumbent upon edifices first to be strong secondly to look strong We have read of a colossus of brass with feet of clay and the image is striking. To an architect Egyptian weight sustained in appearance by Greek pillars is not less so That buildings in rising from the earth be broad and simple at their bases that they grow lighter not only in fact but in expression as they ascend is a principle established The laws of gravitation are at the root of this axiom. The spire obeys it. The obelisk is its simplest expression.
Waiving the impropriety of a Doric colonnade as a basis for an obelisk I object to that order for a circular structure. If the union of Egyptian mass and weight combination and harmony with Greek heterodox be the order in Which They are displayed here is even more strikingly in violation of propriety subdivided The complex structure is comparatively light Greek Placed as a basis for foundation The Egyptian mass of stone When it rises above arrangement is esta Stated That I must think palpable absurdity STI It is Demonstrated.People
- Zukowsky, 1976, 574
- Warren, 1877, 47; see also Purcell, 195-99.
- Bryan, 2001, 204; Scott 1989, 133.
- Purcell, 2010, 201
- Purcell, 2010, 199-200; see also Wright, 1953, 167-71
- Wheildon, 1865, 58-224; see also Willard, 1843
- Heitert, 2009, 38-39