Text of marker:
Maine Sailor and Soldiers Memorial
"The memorial will stand for all time as our state's tribute to those who served her in time of need; for all time will reach its lessons that war is a terrible curse, that manhood, womanhood, childhood all pay its awful price. No one can look upon this memorial without feeling deeply moved. It will force people to think; it will recall deeds of heroism and sacrifice and will inspire those who gaze upon it to nobler thought and effort." - Former Main Governor Percival P. Baxter, Portland Press Herald June 1, 1926
Boston sculptor Bashka Paeff was a woman of thirty when she won a state-sponsored competition to create a memorial to Maine's World War I sailors and soldiers. This dramatic and unusual bronze bas (low) relief sculpture, framed in granite, is the result pf Paeff's work. A 1919 Maine law had mandated the placement of this memorial on the Maine side of the bridge between Kitery and Portsmouth.
In late 1923, a committee of former servicemen helped Maine Governor Percival Baxter selected Paeff's design for the memorial sculpture. With its central figure of a woman holding a child. Paeff's design represented a bold change from other war memorial that often feature soldiers and guns.
A scheduled dedication of the memorial on November 11, 1924, found the sculptureu unfinished. Dignitaries, Governor Baxter, Bashka Paeff, and 2,000 people nonetheless gathered on this site to dedicate the memorials's granite plaza, benches and urns. Plans called for the bronze bas relief sculpture to be installed the following year.
In mid 1925, Bashka Paeff contacted Maine's new governor, Ralph Brewster, to make final arrangements for the sculpture's casting and its installation here. After viewing the sculpture in progress, Governor Brewster stopped the work. A Boston newspaper reported that Brewster doubted "heather such as design would be entirely satisfactory to the people of Maine who expected an appropriate memorial for the deeds of their sons in war." Brewster further accused Baxter, an old political foe, of glorifying pacifism, rather than Main's role in World War I, in selecting Paeff's design.
Even though the work was nearly complete, Paeff was able to propose some changes to fingures in the sculptures's background so that the controversy could be resolved. Baxter and Paeff also suggested that the sculpture's title be changes from "Horrors of War" or "Sacrifices of War" to the lines found in Rudyard Kipling's poem, Recessional: "Lord God of Hosts be with Us Yet, Lest We Forget, Lest We Forget." With these changes officially approved by Brewster and the memorial committee, Paeff finished the sculpture and had ti moved here after its casting a Gorham Manufacturing Company in Rhode Island.
The memorial, finally complete, was dedicated for the second time on May 31, 1926, in a ceremony attended by more than 2,000 people, including Former Governor Baxter, Governor Brewster, Bashka Peaeff, and several military officials.
Restoring the Memorial
Time was not kind to the Maine's Sailor and Soldiers Memorial. In the 1940s, the urns were removed in order to prevent their vandalism during Kittery's World War II blackouts. The sculpture itself deteriorated and the entire memorial was often forgotten, especially beginning in 1971 when the Piscataqua River Bridge and the major gateway into Maine shifted from Route 1 to Interstate 95.
With support from a federal program, Save Outdoor Sculpture, local foundations, and state and local government agencies, a major restoration projected for the memorial began in 1999. The urns, which had been dumped in the river, were retrieved,repaired, and put back in place. An art conservator restored the bronze sculpture. New research brought greater understanding to the memorial's significance. A time capsule placed in the memorial by Governor Baxter in 1924 was opened and its contents studied.
During a re-dedication ceremony for the restored memorial on May 30, 2001, it was put back in place. This time, the time capsule included the original 1924 contents, information about the restoration project, and a letter to the future people of Maine from Governor Angus King.