Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

A pastel blue and pink sky behind Perry's Victory and International Memorial, a 352 foot tall marble column

A Symbol of Victory and Peace

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial was an engineering marvel of its time and an architectural statement. Surrounded by 25 acres of landscaped grounds this national memorial was established to honor Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. Of equal significance, the Memorial serves as a symbol of international peace and a constant reminder of the ongoing cooperation between former enemies, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

The construction was commissioned by nine states, and located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie near the U.S.-Canadian border. The location is symbolic for being within sight of the undefended border.

Rising 352 feet above Lake Erie and visible for miles across the lake, island visitors often mistake the columnar structure for a lighthouse, but stepping onto the surrounding plaza, and going inside the rotunda, a sense of that peace and victory is revealed.

Monochrome photo from approximately 1913 with a 600-foot dock with rails built across a shallow bay to the island where a columnar monument is partially built.
A rail dock was built across the shallow bay to carry the granite stones and equipment directly to the construction site before and during the construction.

NPS Photo archive, photographer Otto G Herbster

Design and Preparations for Construction

  • In October 1911, a "Program of a Competition" was announced and 147 architects and firms submitted designs. The winning drawing was awarded to Joseph H. Freelander and Alexander D. Seymour Jr. of New York City.
  • The contract for construction was signed on September 10, 1912 with John C. Robinson and Son General Contractors of New York and Chicago.
  • It took John H. Feick, a contractor from Sandusky, three months to remove trees and other plants in preparation for building.
  • The general contractor then leveled the uneven ground and drained standing water.
  • A 600-foot long dock with rails was built across the shallow bay to transport materials including the granite blocks, and equipment to the building site.
  • On December 4, 1912 the excavation for the foundation began and was completed within 20 days.
  • By July 4, 1913, wooden foundation forms were constructed, concrete was poured into the forms, and a formal cornerstone laying ceremony was held.
A marble stone with bronze engraving set in a marble floor tiles. It reads "Beneath this stone lie the remains of three American and three British officers killed in the Battle of Lake Erie September 10, 1813.
On September 11,1913 the re-burial of six officers, three Americans and three British, who died during the Battle of Lake Erie was ceremoniously conducted. A marble stone with bronze engraving was set in the rotunda floor above their tomb.

NPS Photo Allison Dawson

The Re-internment

"At the close of the combat in the battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, the slain enlisted personnel of both fleets were committed to the waters of Lake Erie. On September 11, the crews of both fleets joined in a common ceremony in which the remains of six officers, three American and three British, who died in combat were interred a few yards from the lake side on South Bass Island." [copied from A Construction History of the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, Prepared by Alfred Mongin, 1961]

On September 11, 1913 a casket bearing the six officers was ceremoniously raised from the gravesite near the shore and placed in an ornate catafalque. With military escorts, clergy, dignitaries and guests of honor a procession moved towards the Memorial.

Upon completion of the Memorial, a marble slab with a tribute inscribed in bronze was set in the marble rotunda floor above the location of the casket. Along with the bronze marker, the limestone rotunda walls are engraved with the names of the sailors and soldiers who perished or were maimed during the Battle of Lake Erie.

Special Features

Upon seeing the height of the column it is instinctive to look up and wonder about the view from the top, sometimes bypassing the Memorial's significance, the entombed officers and the on-going peace that it represents. Nevertheless, it is a colossal homage to Perry's victory that includes architectural features inside and out that offer visitors moments of reflection on the battle, the bravery, and the longest peaceful border between nations in the world.
  • In 1918 an artistic Tennessee marble floor with a centerpiece and color border was set into the rotunda floor by the Norcross Marble Company.
  • The ceiling of the rotunda forms a dome. A bronze and alabaster chandelier hangs from the center.
  • The elevator floor is above the rotunda ceiling. The shaft was designed for a 6 ft x 6 ft elevator that visitors can ride to the observation deck. It is a view of the battle site, the longest undefended border between two nations, and Lake Erie.

Bronze Tablets

Placed at each rotunda entrance are cast bronze tablets. The first four installed for the dedication measure 28 in by 50 1/4 in. These are: The Treaty or Peace Tablet, The Wilson Tablet, The Taft Tablet, and The Waterson Tablet. Two more were added shortly after the dedication and the final two smaller tablets, one signed by President John F. Kennedy, were hung in 1963. Click this link for the text on each of the bronze tablets.

Recognizing Those Who Fought

The hand engraving of the Indiana limestone wall tablets in the rotunda began October 1913 and continued intermittently though February 1915. Each tablet leads by identifying a ship and is followed by the names of the sailors and soldiers who died or were injured during the Battle of Lake Erie. On the elevator floor above the rotunda are bronze plaques which bear the names of many who fought the battle and survived.

The Bronze Lantern (Urn)

Designed by architect Freedlander, the solid bronze eight-footed, pinnacle structure was cast by the Architectural Bronze Division of the Gorham Company. The lantern was shipped in pieces and reassembled in place. The diameter is 17 ft 4 in (1.2 m). The height is 22.5 ft (6.9 m), and it weighs about 11 tons.


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    Last updated: September 27, 2023

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