National Monument to the Forefathers.

National Monument to the Forefathers

Field review by the editors.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

The National Monument to the Forefathers -- also known as the Pilgrim Monument -- was the apex of an effort by 19th century New Englanders to pump up the Pilgrims and make everyone forget the colonists in Virginia (who arrived first -- the fore-forefathers -- and the Vikings -- the forefore-forefathers). The effort largely succeeded. At 81 feet tall, it's the largest solid granite sculpture in the U.S. It took 30 years to build. Its designer, Hammatt Billings, was dead 15 years before it was finished.

At the time of its dedication on August 1, 1889, the monument was visible for miles atop a treeless promontory overlooking Plymouth Harbor. But 125 years of tree growth has hidden it from the casual traveler, tucked away in a neighborhood of homes, a surprising anonymity for anything this big. Billings had originally wanted something twice its size, but funding dried up during the Civil War.

The monument is topped by a 36-foot-tall statue of Faith, who alone weighs 180 tons. Surrounding statues include Liberty, Peace, Tyranny, Education, Wisdom, Youth, Law, Mercy, Justice, and Morality. It's an iconographic overload, but every one of the monument's 13 statues is helpfully inscribed with its name. Thus, even people from non-allegorical times (like the present) can understand it.

In 2012, Kirk Cameron's "Monumental" documentary brought this largely forgotten monument back into the public eye. According to the film, the Statue of Liberty, which had been completed three years earlier, had actually been influenced by early designs for the National Monument to the Forefathers.

National Monument to the Forefathers

Pilgrim Monument

Address:
72 Allerton St., Plymouth, MA
Directions:
Pilgrim Monument. From Hwy 3/Pilgrims Hwy take exits 6 or 6A onto Samoset St. Drive east one mile, then turn left (north) onto Allerton St.
RA Rates:
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Oldest Tourist Attraction in AmericaOldest Tourist Attraction in America, Plymouth, MA - < 1 mi.
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In the region:
Castle Built by Father of Remote Control, Gloucester, MA - 43 mi.

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December 17, 2018

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