Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series about the history of Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Click here to read part 1.
Breaking ground for the Granite Railway in 1826 made it possible to get the stone intended for the monument to Charlestown. This was a massive undertaking. Stones weighing several tons were hoisted at the quarry onto railroad cars, which then hauled the massive granite stones from the quarry to the Neponset River. The granite was then loaded onto schooners to be ferried to Charlestown, where, at Deven’s wharf, the stone was transferred, again, to ox-driven carts and trekked to Breed’s Hill. No wonder the monument took 18 years to build.
To lift the enormous blocks of granite, Willard, with the help of a local seaman Almoran Holmes, deigned a gigantic hoist, or derrick, with a movable boom. The Holmes Hoisting Apparatus had a "wing span" of 50 feet. It could lift up to 20 tons when joined with the power of six horses.
By 1829 the monument had reached a height of 37 feet. Then the money ran out and all workers, even Willard, were laid off. Work began again in 1834 and, before money ran out again, the obelisk reached 85 feet.
Between 1834 and 1841, to raise money for the stalled project, the Bunker Hill Monument Association sold off 10 of the 15 acres it held, surrounding Breed’s Hill. For the final money needed, Sarah Joseph Buell Hale, editor of "Ladies' Magazine," helped organize what was perhaps the first all-women fundraiser. With the help of handiwork donated by women from all over the country, an additional $30,000 was raised. The monument could now be completed.
According to "Stories in Stone," the final stone on the monument was placed at 6 a.m. on July 23, 1842. The following June 17, with 110 Revolutionary War veterans present, there was the formal dedication.
- Where is it? Monument Square
- When was it built? between 1825 and 1843
- Who built it? It was designed by Solomon Willard, architect
- What was it built for? As a permanent reminder of the Battle of Bunker Hill
- How was it built? Of granite. In the first course alone there are forty-four blocks of stone, of five tons' weight. The monument is 221 feet high, with 294 stone steps to the top. There are no elevators but an incredible view. Total cost of the obelisk was about $100,000.00
- What are the future plans for the structure? The monument site reopened on April 2, 2007, after completion of a $3.7 million renovation that included repairs, handicap accessibility improvements, and new lighting for the Bunker Hill Monument. The new lights were switched on for the first time on April 20, 2007
Information for this article was compiled from various research materials, including http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunker_Hill_Monument; http://thomascranelibrary.org/legacy/obelisk/obelisk.htm; http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art34711.asp; "Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology" by David B. Williams and "Now We Are Enemies" by Thomas J. Fleming.