A 132-year-old monument to peace is reopening on historic grounds in Newburgh.
The ribbon will be cut April 27 on the restored Tower of Victory on the grounds of Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, and — for the first time since 1953 — visitors can climb to the belvedere at the top and enjoy beautiful views of the Hudson River and the Highlands.
The 53-ft-tall limestone monument features four large archways. An atrium inside the structure holds staircases leading to the belvedere, as well as a red granite pedestal with a life-size bronze of George Washington sculpted by William Rudolf O’Donovan. The belvedere commands a direct view of Mount Beacon, where Revolutionary War fires were lit to signal approaching British vessels.
The construction of the Tower of Victory commemorated the end of the Revolutionary War 100 years earlier. In 1883, Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln, the first son of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary, commissioned well-known architect John Hemenway Duncan to design the structure on the property where Washington created the “Badge of Military Merit,” now called the Purple Heart medal. It was completed in 1887.
Even back then, Hudson Valley builders kept things local: The foundation of the tower was made in part from Rosendale Cement, and the stone was quarried near Newburgh, as well as from a quarry in Albany. Originally, an iron tile roof was supported by 13 large limestone columns. Four bronze statues of soldiers were added to the niches of the tower’s east and west exterior walls — each statue represented a branch of the military that had served during the American Revolution: dragoons, artillerymen, riflemen, and line officers. Four finely detailed bronze gates were added to each arch to prevent vandalism and/or the unauthorized removal of tower artifacts.
In November 1950, hurricane winds damaged the tower’s tile roof, and the state originally proposed the monument’s destruction. Outcry by local residents saved the structure. In 1953, a decision was made to remove the roof, and the Tower was no longer open to the public.
A $1.6 million capital campaign by the Palisades Park Conservancy culminated in the current restoration of the tower.