BENNINGTON >> A ceremony on Saturday will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Bennington Battle Monument.
The event will run from about 2 p.m. to about 5 p.m.
It's one of the few days a year when the 412 steps to the observation platform will be open for guided tours, said Marylou Chicote, site administrator. Admission on Saturday will be 10 cents, which was the original fee to climb the steps when the monument opened.
A group called "Vintage Visitors" will attend and wear outfits common to that time period, Chicote said. One member will be dressed in vintage bicyclist clothes and others will wear clothes that some may have worn to the dedication in 1891. They'll also facilitate games with children.
Entertainment will be a local barbershop quartet. David B. Lively will provide horse and buggy carriage rides around Monument Circle for a fee, weather permitting.
And a "monumental" birthday deserves a "monumental" cake. So, a birthday cake modeled after the monument, with ice cream, will be available while supplies last.
Jenica McCevoy, owner, baker and decorator with Bennington-based Fancy Pants Cakes, put the cake together this week. It stands 32-inches tall — about two inches being the base and 30 inches for the monument itself.
"I was thrilled to be asked to make it, and doubly thrilled that the Friends of the Bennington Battle Monument decided to go with such a tall design," McEvoy said on Friday.
The base is a vanilla cake with strawberry buttercream filling, covered with more buttercream and fondant. The base will be decorated to look like grass and sidewalks around the monument. The monument is a chocolate cake with chocolate raspberry buttercream filling, covered with chocolate ganache and fondant.
McEvoy said she'll also have some cupcakes on Saturday, which will be the same flavor as the monument cake. McEvoy will do the honor of cutting the cake during Saturday's ceremony, Chicote said.
"A mighty tower"
Commemorating the Battle of Bennington — which took place Aug. 16, 1777, across the state border in Walloomsac, N.Y. — the obelisk was built on the site of a Continental military storehouse that was the objective of the British attack. Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum had been sent by General John Burgoyne to raid Bennington for horses, food, and other supplies, believing the town to be lightly defended. Baum's army of 700 soldiers was defeated by 2,000 New Hampshire and Massachusetts militiamen defeated a detachment of 700 British soldiers, under the command of General John Stark.
Efforts to build a monument at the storehouse site waxed and waned in the 1800s. By 1877, a local historical society formed and momentum grew. A design by J. Philipp Rinn of Boston, Mass. was chosen amongst several others.
The cornerstone was laid in 1887 and it took four years to complete. Made of blue-grey magnesian limestone from present-day Hudson Falls, N.Y., its height of 306 feet makes it the state's tallest man-made structure.
"The public wanted a mighty tower — and it had to be tall," Tyler Resch, a local historian and a former editor for the Banner, wrote in "The Shires of Bennington: A Sampler of Green Mountain Heritage."
Historical accounts describe the monument's dedication on Aug. 19, 1891 as a spectacular public display. The dedication coincided with the centennial celebration of Vermont's admission into the union — the latter officially fell in March, the decision was made to move it to a warmer season.) The day's record of events are described in detail in "The Dedication Of The Bennington Battle Monument," a record published by the Vermont Centennial Commission in 1892.
President Benjamin Harrison attended local ceremonies and held a banquet at the Walloomsac Inn. The town was decked in red, white and blue. A massive processional featured no fewer than 4,484 people: The march included 68 military and civic organizations, 12 bands, six drum corps, and 108 carriages. "Triumphal arches" were built across the processional route. One at the intersection of North, South and Main Streets was 75-feet long and 60-feet high. Up to 40,000, 32-page pamphlets with railroad rates for the northeastern states were printed.
"The day dawned clear and beautiful, and at an early hour, by five o'clock, nearly everybody in town was busy with their preparation for the great parade, the notable celebration, and all that followed it, closing with the pyrotechnic display in the evening," the text states. "The most conservative estimates did not place the gathering at less than 30,000 people, while the calculations of a greater number went as high as 40,000 and above."
The New York Tribune stated: "The events commemorated were celebrated in a manner befitting the occasion, and worthy of the patriotic descendants of those who fought for liberty and independence at Bennington, Bunker Hill, and in the other battles of the Revolution."
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.