ALLISON MONUMENT AND
CAPITOL GROUNDS EXTENSION

References have been made to an Allison Memorial Commission, and to the extension and improvement of the capitol grounds. This double movement— one growing out of the other—is such a long stride toward the realization of James Harlan's dream for the future improvement of Iowa's capitol grounds, that it calls for separate mention as significant of the awakening of the aesthetic sense in a commonwealth which for threescore or more years had given its best energies to the pressing problems of material development. At the laying of the corner-stone of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, in 1894, ex-Senator Harlan expressed the hope that that monument would be "only the pioneer of still greater works of art hereafter to arise—for civil liberty and for the human race, until these Des Moines hills shall be radiant with their glory."

In partial fulfillment of this hope and in sympathetic response to a movement started by Gen. G. M. Dodge and the Iowa Society of New York, the Thirty-third General Assembly, in 1909, created a commission authorized to locate and erect a pedestal for a monument to the memory of the late William B. Allison. The commission appointed consisted of the governor of the state, the chairman of the Allison Memorial Committee, the curator of the historical collections, a member of the senate and a member of the house. It was clothed with full authority to locate and erect upon the capitol grounds, or any extension thereof, a suitable pedestal, etc., and "to do all things reasonable and necessary to the location and erection of such pedestal." It was also empowered to select the design of the statue to be erected over the pedestal and was limited in expenditure to 30 per cent of the amount of the popular subscription to the monument fund, in any event keeping within the sum of $10,000.

The inability of the commission to find any suitable site for the monument on the capitol grounds suggested an extension of the present grounds, not alone to give the monument a suitable setting, but at the same time to realize, in a measure at least, the vision of Governors Larrabee, Shaw, Cummins, Garst, Carroll and Clarke, of a coming time when the capitol grounds should be made spacious and ,be made beautiful by the landscape artist, the sculptor and the architect.

The commission as originally constituted consisted of Gen. G. M. Dodge, president; Curator Edgar R. Harlan, secretary; Governor B. F. Carroll, Senator A. F. Frudden and Representative O. H. Holmes. In 1913 it consisted of General Dodge, Governor Clarke, Curator Harlan, Senator N. J. Schrup and Representative Walter F. Craig. In 1915 there was no change in the personnel except that W. N. Gilbert of State Center was appointed to succeed Mr. Craig.

Too much credit can scarcely be given the late General Dodge and his associate in the project, Curator E. R. Harlan; the one for his keen interest in the movement to honor the memory of his friend; the other for his strong initiative, his active participation with the expert advisers in all the details of the plan, his resultful efforts to secure the active cooperation of Governors Carroll and Clarke, for the grasping of facts upon which E. L. Masqueray based his plan, and for his effective campaign with the legislators and the public in behalf of the movement. While, with a vision that inspired and a force that compelled, Governor Clarke pushed forward to success this, one of his most creditable achievements.

Meantime, a vigorous opposition to the measure developed in certain parts of the state, centering in a test case brought by citizens of Van Buren and Wapello counties to enjoin the executive council from purchasing certain real estate and from issuing certificates in payment thereof. The case was tried in the district court, of Polk county, Judge J. H. Applegate, of Guthrie, presiding. A decree was entered enjoining the proposed issuance of certificates; otherwise relief was denied. Both parties appealed. The contention of the plaintiffs was that the entire act referred to was in violation of the state constitution in that it authorized the creation of an indebtedness in excess of that therein permitted, without submitting the question to a vote of the "people." The supreme court sustained the able and exhaustive opinion of Justice Ladd, the vital part of which was that the evidence was without dispute that even if the executive council should elect to purchase all the land included in the plat the purchase could be accomplished from funds available from taxes to be levied and collected for 1913-14, together with the proceeds of certificates not exceeding $250,000—not, therefore, to be construed as authorizing the creation of a "debt in excess of the constitutional limitation." The act, therefore, could not be said to authorize the executive council to violate any of the provisions of the constitution, and in the opinion of the higher court the district court erred in construing any portion of the act as unconstitutional.

Thus freed from questions as to the constitutionality of the act, the executive council proceeded to acquire by purchase (with the alternative of condemnation) the land included within the plan which had been embodied in the law and made a part of the act.

This plan was the one which had previously been adopted by the Allison Memorial Commission. The members of that commission decided to associate with them trained men to assist in selecting both the model and the site for the monument. On the recommendation of the National Sculpture Society they chose Charles Grafly, head of the sculpture department of the Pennsylvania Society of Fine Arts, and E. L. Masqueray, chief of design of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, to whom was credited most of the best architecture at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. Chiefly to Masqueray was the commission indebted for the larger plan which forms part of the act under which the extension was ordered.

Going back to the Allison monument, due publicity was given the competitive plan of the board of award—consisting of the commission and the two experts, and many models were anonymously submitted. The board separately expressed their choice and all were agreed in that the model submitted by Miss Evelyn B. Longman, of New York, was artistically superior to all the others, finding in it "the rare charm which goes to make up a work of distinction, and an ingenious depiction of the subject's personal characteristics combined with an allegorical presentation of his several statesmanly qualifications."

Iowa, Its History & Its Citizens, Volume 2, 1918
Submitted by Cathy Danielson


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