Following World War I, a group of Mobile women needed $20,000 for a memorial to honor locals who had been killed. They struggled to find funding.
“They did bake sales and anything they could think of,” said Cammie Israel, president of Stewards of Memorial Park. “It had taken longer than they thought.”
Architect George B. Rogers helped. He got the marble donated out of Sylacauga and eventually designed the memorial that was dedicated in 1926. The monument is now the cornerstone of Memorial Park, behind the iconic cannon at the junction of Government Street and Airport Boulevard in Midtown.
“It’s a really good space for Mobile,” Israel said. “Over 17,000 cars go by every day.”
The bake sales are gone, but the struggle to find funding for the park and monument continues, Israel said.
“It has been invisible,” Israel said of the monument. “It made me sad to think about all these women had done. We owe it to these women to do something with this park.”
The task may be slightly easier now as the World War I Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, in partnership with The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, announced the park is one of the first 50 memorials officially designated as a WWI Centennial Memorial, according to a statement from Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office.
The 100 Cities/100 Memorials organization was created to help draw attention to WWI memorials across the United States, enabling the whole country to take part in the WWI Centennial Commemoration.
The special recognition gives Israel’s group $2,000 in matching funds to go toward a larger master plan for the park, which they hope can be completed by November 2018, Israel said.
The group applied for the grant in the spring more for the recognition, because it didn’t provide a lot of money, Israel said.
“Hopefully, it’ll open up other doors,” she said.
The group needs a total of $700,000 to complete the master plan to improve the fountain and add lighting, as well as improve the lighting and landscaping already in place. Israel said the group has raised just over $182,000 to date.
“Hopefully down the road we can put a monument at the other end [of the park] to make it a park for all veterans of all wars,” she said. “We want to make a place where people can go to find some peace.”
In addition to the federal recognition, the city plans to contribute $19,000 in District 2 capital improvement funds for the rehabilitation of the monument itself. The restoration includes repairing the broken and loose marble slabs, replacing grout in all the seams between the stones and removing the dirt and stains acquired over time.
“The official WWI designation honors all of the men and women who served our country during the Great War,” Stimpson said in a statement. “It’s important that we continue to uphold their legacy and remember their contributions to our country. I am thankful for the Stewards of Memorial Park, who are committed to revitalizing this historic landmark.”