Gone, But Not Forgotten

Four Freedoms monument in Evansville, Indiana, 1978. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2350.

Four Freedoms monument in Evansville, Indiana, 1978. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2350.

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

If you have watched the 4th of July firework on Evansville’s riverfront or driven down Riverside Drive, you’ve probably seen this. It’s the Four Freedoms monument, celebrating freedom of speech, freedom of oppression, freedom of religion, and freedom from fear. These rights are guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Draft of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech on freedom, 1941. Source: https://fdrlibrary.org/documents/356632/390886/ffdrafts.pdf/48fdda5f-b33f-4097-b040-6248fe56d69b

Draft of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech on freedom, 1941. Source: fdrlibrary.org/

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, attempting to rally support for the Allied forces in World War II (keep in mind this was before Pearl Harbor, so the United States was not yet part of the war effort), talked about these freedoms as rights that every human being ought to enjoy. “These freedoms, Roosevelt declared, must triumph everywhere in the world, and act as a basis of a new moral order. “Freedom,” Roosevelt declared, “means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.””

But back to Evansville’s Four Freedoms monument, built to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976–it also contains 13 steps which represent the 13 original colonies, and 50 pedestals with each state’s name and seal.  But those limestone columns are the interesting part.

Each is 26 ft. tall, topped with an Ionic-style capital. They pre-date this memorial by nearly 100 years.  Back in the age of train travel, Evansville had a number of different railroad depots.  The one for the C&EI Railroad (Chicago and Eastern Illinois) was built in 1882.  Standing at 28 SE 8th Street, the entrance to the depot was adorned by 4 columns, 26 feet tall, with Ionic capitals…that’s right—the columns for the Four Freedoms monument came from the C&EI Railroad station.  The depot itself was razed in the 1960’s, but the columns were saved and repurposed some years later on Evansville’s waterfront.

Central & Eastern Illinois (C.&E.I.) railroad station in Evansville, Indiana, 1965. Source: Sonny Brown collection, MSS 228-0645.

Central & Eastern Illinois (C.&E.I.) railroad station in Evansville, Indiana, 1965. Source: Sonny Brown collection, MSS 228-0645.

Before and after pictures–looking pretty good for 136 years old!

Four Freedoms momument, 2012. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Four_Freedoms_Monument,_Evansville,_Indiana.JPG

Four Freedoms momument, 2012. Source: Wikimedia.org

The first and third photographs in this blog are from collections owned by University Archives and Special Collections.  The first is from the Gregory Smith (1956-2012) collection.   Smith was a local boy who graduated from UE with a degree in journalism.  The third photograph is from the Sonny Brown (1932-2015) collection.  Brown was a photographer for the Evansville Courier newspaper.

Resources consulted:

Four Freedoms Monument

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park

Rice Library Digital Collections, specifically:

Gregory Smith collection (MSS 034)

Sonny Brown collection (MSS 228)

United States Courts

This entry was posted in Evansville, Indiana, Landmarks, Local history. Bookmark the permalink.

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