The Monument That’s Stood for More than a Century
The Soldiers and Sailors monument is an iconic landmark on College Green, but have you ever wondered about the history behind it?
Ohio Today Magazine Staff | October 2, 2023
As a student, you likely walked by the Soldiers & Sailors monument on a regular basis. But how much time did you spend wondering or learning about its history? If the answer is “none,” you’re not alone; as far back as 1959, it was referred to as the “mystery monument” in The Post.
Built in 1893, the iconic College Green structure celebrates its 130th birthday this year. And though it’s often considered an iconic fixture of the University’s central green, the monument actually was commissioned by Athens County. In fact, when the memorial was first unveiled before a crowd of around 8,000 onlookers, that portion of College Green was still owned by what was then the Village of Athens.
The monument honoring the 2,610 Athens County men who fought in the Civil War (roughly 1,000 of whom never returned) was unveiled on July 4, 1983. In May 1986, Athens council leased the rest of what we now know as College Green—including the monument—to the University in perpetuity. University pride in the monument arrived quickly, and it was even featured on the cover of the 1925 Athena yearbook.
At 45 feet tall, the concrete and bronze structure features a Union sailor, cavalryman and infantryman around its base and an artilleryman on top. Originally, the monument included a set of canons and a stack of cannonballs nearby, but those were contributed to the World War II effort in the 1940s.
In the late ’60s, vandals removed one of the figures at the base and left it under a tree nearby; others graffitied peace symbols and antiwar messages on the figures and steps of the structure. This resulted in an ultimately unsuccessful bid by the Athens American Legion to relocate the entire monument.
In 1979, Soldiers & Sailors was included in an application to add several local sites to the National Register of Historic Places; today, College Green itself is listed as an official historic district.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument Through the Years
Below you'll find an assortment of historical and contemporary images of the Soldiers and Sailors monument. Click each photo to learn more about it. Top photo by Dylan Wayne Townsend, BSVC '24; above photo courtesy The Mahn Center for Archives & Special Collections.