“Steve, one of the signature landmarks of the Granite City’s downtown brings us here this week,” Mike Hoey said.
“Absolutely, Mike,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “Of course, Barre being the Granite City, there’s lots of beautiful sculpture throughout the city, but this one’s right in the middle of town and I think everybody who’s driven through here has seen it.
“It’s very striking. It has a title, Youth Triumphant, and it was built shortly after World War I. I suggest we go to the (Vermont) Granite Museum and meet with the executive director there, Scott McLaughlin.”
“The intent was to create a memorial that would not only be dedicated to the service of the youth in central Vermont, but also looking towards advertising,” McLaughlin said. “This is the growth of the granite industry in the state of Vermont.
“It reached its peak in 1902 as the main player in North America, and they wanted to make sure that everybody knew that. It took from 1910 until 1919 for the city and the Quarry Owners Association and Manufacturers Association to get their ducks in a row.”
Perkins asked, “Was it designed here in Barre?”
“No, it was not designed here in Barre,” McLaughlin replied. “Instead, the committee that was formed by the Quarry Owners Association, they selected architects and a sculptor from New York City to be the panel to look at those who were contributing to the competition. There were five submissions. That competition then led to finding a finalist.
“Paul Jennewein (the winning artist) wanted to create an image of a soldier returning home — a sheathed sword. His shield is behind him. His tunic is laying over his right arm, and he’s now knelt down because he’s arrived at home. The fighting is over, and now it’s time for peace.
“‘The whispering bench’ behind it is an opportunity for people to sit (and) communicate with one another about what has happened when it comes to war.”
“And ‘the whispering bench’ is colloquially named what it is because of the very unique outdoor acoustics that it has,” Hoey noted.
“Exactly; it’s great,” McLaughlin continued. “You can sit on opposite ends and whisper to one another, and you can hear it! Even when people are sitting in between you — and you can’t hear the traffic that’s buzzing around you.”
“(The monument) was carved very close to where we’re standing now,” Perkins observed.
“Exactly; it’s probably about 100 feet in that direction,” McLaughlin said. “Jones Brothers (Company, located where the Vermont Granite Museum is now) got the contract to deal with acquiring the materials, cutting it and erecting it here in Barre City. And then, Tosi Brothers were responsible for the actual sculpture — (Gino) Tosi, (Enrico) Mori and (John) Delmonte.”
Perkins asked, “When was it finally dedicated?”
“So, it was dedicated on Armistice Day — November 11 — 1924, so it’ll be 100 years next November,” McLaughlin answered. “And it was a community project; it took a great deal of effort. We’ve got all the models. You can see the entire process being undertaken in the Stone Arts School here at the museum.”
Perkins concluded, “How can (anyone) learn more about the Vermont Granite Museum?”
“Well, of course, there’s our website, and come to look at the museum itself,” McLaughlin said. “We’re open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00, right through the end of October.”