The inherently interesting Kates monument in Laurel Hill sheds light on the “Interesting and malleable monument type” about which I published a post here on 26 October 2019.
There’s no need to repeat the detailed description of the monument type I gave last October. I’ll assume you’ve read that post in what follows, and I do assure you it’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.
Basically, we have a tall rectangular slab monument snuggling within four tuscan columns. Above the columns is a canopy and below a multi-tiered base. It’s useful to compare the Kates monument to the Joh and Watts monuments in Baltimore (cf. figures 1, 4, 5).
The Joh monument (figure 2) is closest in scale and feel, even though the Kates monument (figure 1) lacks a human figure. The Laurel Hill monument is simplest of the three and the same can still be said if we enlarge the group of comparanda to include the Shipley (Green Mount, Baltimore, 1904) and Painter (Druid Ridge, Pikesville, 1906) monuments, not illustrated here.
The Kates monument (figure 1) lacks the Joh monument’s (figure 4) swag atop the slab and the dentils in the attic although it does have tuscan column capitals rather than the Joh monument’s ionic ones which cap the latter’s polished columns of darker granite. Similar tuscan capitals feature in the Watts monument (figure 5), and the two also share a Greek fret pattern with a central patera-shaped flower as the top border of the slab (figure 6).
Of the three monuments illustrated here, the Watts monument represents what I consider the be the most fully developed form of the type, differing in its highly wrought ornamentation and in the adjustment of the base to accommodate a sitting human figure. One also notes that three of the four Baltimore-area monuments have a bit of funerary doggerel on them (only the Shipley monument lacks it), while the Kates monument has two separate epitaphs on it, one for each of the main commemorated figures (figure 6).
Still, it seems to me obvious that these monuments—and perhaps a few more I could mention—emerged from the same atelier. The Shipley monument was erected by William A. Gault & Son, a then-prominent local firm which let contracts to quarriers for major jobs. It is possible that the great similarity of the monuments under consideration here betokens the unifying thread of Gault & Son moving variants of a successful product among the burghers of Baltimore. Yet the presence of a quite similar monument in Laurel Hill seems to confirm that the basic design was owed to the quarry from which the monuments came—the single atelier I mentioned above.
I would not have known of the Gault & Son connection without an explicit attribution in an article on recent work in The Monumental News of 1908. But the Monumental News article also states that the monument in question (the Shipley monument in Green Mount) is made of Westerly granite, sourced in Westerly R.I. This is a very distinctive stone that tends to run from gray to buff to slightly dirty pinkish. On a bad day, and dirty, it can look greenish; on a great day, clean and in good light, it is buff or even bluish. By my reckoning, on the basis of having seen all of the monuments under discussion, all are out of the Westerly quarries. That is why the Kates monument is so wonderful: the contractor allowed the quarry to place its mark upon the foundation of the monument. That was the Smith Granite Co. of Westerly R.I. (figure 7).
Smith, according to the Pedia of Wiki, was in operation from the 1850s and was incorporated from 1887. They contracted out to produce monuments to local firms all over the northeast and had a number of subcontractors who worked for them. You can see the finished Borden monument in Fall River’s Oak Grove Cemetery and the really interesting order from Smith’s ledgers for it in Shelley Dziedzic’s post here on the Friends of Oak Grove web site. Figure 8 shows a Smith ad for just this kind of work in the 1904 Monumental News, p. 745.
This brings me to the point where I think I can tentatively try to identify the cutter of at least two, and probably three of the figures (Shipley, Watts, Joh) in Westerly granite under consideration here and in my “Interesting and malleable monument type” post. I’ll title that post “The baby-fat sculptor,” because a bit of attractive adipose marks his work in the statues I’ve seen.