By Mary McTamaney
Newburgh is a monumental city. In 2016, the Society’s opening day festivities included a slide presentation entitled “Monumental Newburgh.” A panel led by Tom Knieser showcased the many beautiful sculptures and memorials installed in the city. There is a story behind the motivation and creation of each public monument.
One of the most interesting back stories to local public art is that of the debut of a life-sized equestrian statue of General Anthony Wayne. General Wayne had been headquartered here for a time serving under Commander-In-Chief George Washington. He is best known for his heroic service at Valley Forge during that desperate Pennsylvania winter encampment and for his win at the Battle of Stony Point here in the Hudson Valley. Newburgh sculptor, Henry K. Bush-Brown, was commissioned to create a statue of General Wayne for Valley Forge and did so in his local studio. Bush-Brown saved the plaster model prepared for the casting of that massive bronze statue and gave it to the community in 1909. It was placed, as this illustration depicts, on the Washington’s Headquarters lawn. Sadly, plaster, even with coats of metallic paint, couldn’t stand up to Mother Nature. General Wayne began to crumble and indeed became, as his nickname implied, “Mad Anthony.” From a bold stance astride his horse, facing the sunny vista of the Hudson River, the General Wayne sculpture model had to be towed away into oblivion. Fortunately for posterity, the commissioned bronze statue still stands proud in the Valley Forge National Park. (March 2016)