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Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Public Square: Landmarks in The Land

Standing in the heart of Public Square in Cleveland, some visitors may not know that inside the monument, they can find a memorial room, serving as a museum.

CLEVELAND — In the heart of Public Square, many Clevelanders and visitors have likely noticed the Soldiers' and Sailors’ Monument, Cuyahoga County’s Civil War Monument. While the outside, adorned with statues representing the Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry, and Navy may be eye-catching, the inside holds more information and artifacts dedicated to remembering those involved in the war. 

The monument was dedicated on July 4, 1894, to honor and recognize the men and women from Cuyahoga County who served or assisted in the war efforts.

Tucked inside the structure through a doorway is a memorial room, which serves as a museum of sorts, holding Civil War-era bullets and items, photos through history, and carvings depicting notable war figures. 

Perhaps most striking are the memorial’s internal walls, inscribed with 9,000 names of men and women from the county who enlisted. Senior caretaker Warren Doyle said that if the room took into account the name of every person who enlisted from Ohio, the room would be 32 stories tall. 

Preserving and sharing these pieces of history, and the legacy these men and women left behind, are important to Doyle. For Doyle, the history of the monument is personal; he himself is a veteran, and all four of his grandfathers fought in the Civil War. 

Doyle’s role as caretaker involves more than maintaining the flower gardens and keeping the monument clean. He also welcomes guests, walking them through the memorial, and sharing with them the structure’s history and role. 

“I get a feel for what you do know, then I tell you about the monument. But if you don't know about the Civil War, I have to tell you a little bit about the American Civil War first before we can even touch on this place,” he said. “So teaching people the impact of this war, how it's still relevant today, just as much as it was 158 years ago.”

Doyle said keeping the lessons he shares relevant is important in helping people understand why history matters more than a century later. For example, Doyle said big topics of discussion in today’s society are race and social issues.

“158 years ago, they were fighting for a race of people to get them out of bondage,” he said. “Now here you are 158 years later, and if you have no idea what these men and women did, then you can't even get a feel, you know - justice, racial injustice and this - these people paid in full. And I want them to know when you walk in here, especially people from Cleveland, that these men and women fought for that. Volunteered, no draft.” 

Doyle guides people through the room, pointing out historically significant pieces, such as a document signed by Abraham Lincoln himself, a bronze carving depicting the women involved in the war efforts, and his personal favorite, a piece called the Emancipation Panel, which he said is the only place where you will see President Lincoln holding a weapon. 

Doyle’s passion for history extends to many aspects of his life. In his free time, he attends historical reenactments. In the winter, he breaks out Patriotic Santa, a character from an illustration in the 1800s. Doyle handmade the entire outfit, sourcing buttons and badges, and creating pants and a frock coat. 

“All the buttons now are World War II dress buttons, uniform dress buttons,” he said. “And I've got bronze badges from the Civil War, Spanish American War. It's the patriotic Santa. Now some people are like, ‘Hmm.’ They don't call that Santa, but they warm up to it.”

Patriotic Santa makes appearances throughout the holiday season, with Doyle’s final appearance of the season inside the Union monument on Dec. 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

Doyle is coming up on a decade of work at the monument, every year, sharing its story with about 40,000 visitors like Naquittia Noah, visiting Cleveland from St. Louis for a convention. 

“I’m a student of history, it’s so important,” she said. “In order for us to move forward and to be a better country, and welcome diversity, we have to understand our history, and appreciate and respect it, in my opinion.”

On a break from the convention, she wandered into the monument and found her visit evoked emotions. 

“It’s just so inspiring,” she said. “Without the Emancipation Proclamation, where would I be as an African American woman? It’s deep, the feelings, the emotions run deep for me.”

As Doyle greets visitors and learns their stories, too, he has no plans of slowing down. 

“It's a nice job,” he said. “I meet all kinds of people.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on Nov. 20, 2022. 

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