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This is the photograph that started my Ryder collection. I found it at an antique shop mixed in with some old postcards. It was faded, soiled, and torn. Terrible condition, yet I still wanted it. I was curious to know why it was a photograph of a drawing. Moreover, why did the building seem so familiar?

Then, I remembered…

This is the Garfield Monument at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. And yes, that dingy photograph depicts an architectural rendering of this building; with some alterations. Let’s backtrack a little bit.

If we refer back to Voigtländer and I, Ryder will tell us how this all started. He and James A. Garfield became close friends in Cleveland well before Garfield’s presidency. Naturally, Ryder took his photograph on a few occasions.

I remember well when Colonel Garfield (later general, senator, president, and martyr) came to my gallery for a sitting. […] As I was sitting him he remarked that he would about as soon stand before a gun; said it gave him the uncomfortable feeling of being aimed at to have a camera pointed toward him. He was truly the soldier and gentleman.

Garfield found time just after his presidential nomination to have another sitting in Ryder’s studio. My cabinet card above (and in Voigtländer and I) depicts the photograph taken by Ryder that day. It was the first photograph of Garfield post-nomination.

I suspect there is more to the story behind my cabinet card of Garfield. I think it was printed after his death in 1881. You can see that it is a photograph of a framed photograph. Had this cabinet card been made at the time of Garfield’s nomination, Ryder could easily have made copies from the glass plate negative. Instead, it seems that he took the original printed photograph off of the wall and snapped a new picture of it, much like he did to reproduce a photograph of Garfield’s mother; an image made especially for Garfield to be viewed from his deathbed. 

Now, on to the monument…

An executive committee (including Rutherford B. Hayes) formed to oversee the erection of a monument and place of interment for Garfield and his family in Cleveland. The committee sent out a call for architectural plans in the New York Times; the incentive being notoriety and a cash prize. Meanwhile, the idea was for Cleveland and the rest of the nation to contribute $250,000 to fund the project. Within a year, it was clear that they would only raise about $136,000.

By June 1884, the trustees had chosen the winners for the design contest.

  • Third place and $500: Moffitt & Doyle of New York
  • Second place and $750: C.F. & J.A. Schweinfurth of Cleveland
  • First place and $1,000: George H. Keller of Hartford, Connecticut 

As it turns out, my dingy cabinet card at the beginning of this post depicts George Keller’s winning design from the contest. Ryder must have reproduced the plans and distributed them to the public.

Keller’s interior design for the Garfield Monument. Image courtesy of St. Croix Architecture

You might be asking, why do the plans look so different from the actual monument? It all boils down to lack of money and abundance of excuses. As previously mentioned, the committee was unable to raise their goal amount for the monument. Once work started, it became clear that they didn’t even have enough money to complete Keller’s design. It was time to improvise. First, with a rumor that the building foundation was too unstable to support such a high tower. As a result, the tower height became 150 feet instead of 225 feet. Fewer materials! Next, corners were cut with the building materials. Brick substituted stone whenever possible. This sparked a lawsuit between the sub-contractor and contractor. To accommodate all of these changes, architects Calvert Vaux and Henry van Brunt were called in to make design modifications.   

After years of consternation, the monument was finally dedicated on May 30, 1890. If you have an 1890 copy of Harper’s Weekly, you might find a write-up about this. Otherwise, take a look at the Historic and Descriptive Sketch of the Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery

In closing, here are a few more photos of the Garfield Monument. I took these in 2007. Enjoy!

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