Sacrifices of War Memorial
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Written by SeacoastNH Tours

Kittery Soldiers and Sailors Memorial /
Visitors who now take the Interstate 95 bridge to Maine will miss this powerful bronze sculpture just across the old bridge to Kittery. Recently restored, the image was originally considered a Pacifist message and artist Bashka Paeff was required to make it more warlike. Still a powerful statement, it tells not only of the death of sailors and soldiers, but of the grief felt by mothers, wives and children.



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WW1 Sailors and Soldiers Memorial in Kittery, Maine

Name: Sacrifices of War (originally "Horrors of War")
Location: Kittery, Maine
Honors: Maine World War I veterans, all soldiers and sailors
Dedicated: Armistice Day, 1924 and May 31, 1926

Sacarifices of War Memorial, Kittery, ME /


The $1.5 million Memorial Bridge linking Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME, dedicated in 1923, was a phenomenal accomplishment with three 300-foot sections spanning the Piscataqua River and permanently linking Kittery, Maine with Portsmouth, NH. Begun at the close of "The Great War," the tallest lift bridge in the country was to be dedicated to soldiers from both states lost in the recent conflict. Monuments were planned for both approaches, but Spanish-American and Civil War veterans became embroiled in a battle of words over the purpose of the dedication.

Maine Governor Rejects Memorial for New BridgeOn the Kittery side, the battle soon focused on the design by Miss Bashka Paeff, a Boston sculptor who had been part of the famous MacDowell artist's colony in Peterborough. NH. Her monument plan depicted a pair of life-sized naked men, drowned in the sea. Above them a draped fearful female figure cradled a naked child. Powerful and evocative, the sculpture design included no military figures and was considered by some as an expression of pacifism. The addition of military inscriptions and smaller figures satisfied the opposition and the bronze piece was cast. The added low-relief military images on the left show a soldier firing a gun and another throwing a grenade. On the right, a row of soldiers marches into the distance. The back of the monument includes a brass image of Maine seal and the figure of a farmer with a scythe and a sailor with an anchor.

Weighing 2,800 pounds, the bronze plate is considered among the largest set at that time in the United States. The tablet is 11 by 8 feet resting on a granite base 13 feet high. Originally called "The Horrors of War," the monument is one of two in the grassy oval common that locals call "John Paul Jones Park" and was once a training ground for local militia.

INSCRIPTION: (front granite) State of Maine, To Her Sailors and Soldiers; (front bottom of bronze plaque) Lord God of Hosts Be With Us Yet, Lest We Forget, Lest We Forget

DIRECTIONS: Cross the Memorial Bridge from downtown Portsmouth, NH (up State Street) to Kittery. Cross Badger's Island and travel just past Warren's Lobster House to "John Pail Jones Park", an oval common at the intersection of Route 103, Route 1, and the road to downtown Kittery. The large monument is set well back in the common area under some trees facing Portsmouth. Since a roundabout surrounds the common, there is no dedicated parking.

ARTIST: Bashka Paeff (1894-1979) was born in Minsk, Russia, but came to the US as an infant and attended school in Boston, including the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. In addition to the controversial Kittery, Maine sculpture, she received commissions for war memorials at the State House in Boston and a Lexington Minuteman (but not the will known Lexington Minuteman image). She created many portraits, busts and bas relief images of famous Americans, including Oliver Wendell Holmes and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Her sculpture of President Warren G. Harding's Airedale "Laddie Boy." featured in Smithsonian Magazine online. (Press BACK to return.) The winner of many awards and a member of numerous arts organizations, she died on January 24, 1979.

UPDATE: In 2005 Maine conservator Ronald Harvey restored the monument while the Syphers Monument Company repaired the granite frame and surrounding area. Four half-ton granite urns that once surrounded the monument were located down by the river, restored and returned to their original location. A time capsule installed in 1924 was opened, examined, added to, and reburied at the monument. Paeff was paid $15,000 for the original monument, but that included all the costs of casting, creating and installing the monument. The recent repair cost about $45,000 with key funding coming from Save Outdoor Sculpture, a joint project of Heritage Preservation and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art. A detailed summary of the story with pictures of the artist have been placed on site so visitors can understand the importance of the monument.

RESEARCH: JDR, Richard Winslow, Maryellen Burke

SOURCES: Portsmouth Herald; Marquis Who Was Who in America, Vol VII ; New Hampshire, A History by Robert Pillsbury, Vol III. With thanks to Portsmouth Athenaeum and Portsmouth Public Library.

PHOTOS AND TEXT © J. Dennis Robinson,

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 BASHKA PAEFF MEMORIAL, Kittery, Maine (continued)

Woman with Child and Dtrowning Men / Bashka Paeff, 1925/

Detail before Restoration /

After 2005 restoration /

Before restoration detail /

Basha Paeff Detail Maine /

Copyright 2006

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Says It Glorifies Pacifism More
Than Maine's Part in World War

Boston. Aug. 25 -- Greatly to the concern of Miss Bashka Paeff, the artist, it became known yesterday that the bronze relief that she was commissioned to make by former Gov. Baxter of Maine for a conspicuous in the war memorial bridge at Kittery has been rejected, temporarily at least, by Gov. Brewster on the ground that the design is more of a glorification of pacifism that of his state's part in the world conflict.

  When she was asked to comment on the situation last evening at her studio, 45 River street, Miss Paeff was obviously much disturbed . She firmly declined to talk of the fact that two checks for $10,000 and $12,000 respectively which had been drawn to her credit during the Baxter administration, in addition to a preliminary payment of $5,000, have been held up by the present executive of the state.

The story of the "rejected" relief really begins in May 1924, when the then Gov. Baxter and a memorial committee selected Miss Paeff's sketch from a number of others which had been submitted. They made a contract with her to model the bronze relief after the design in the sketch and agreed to set it in a special plinth at the entrance to the memorial bridge which connects Portsmouth, N.H. and Kittery, Me.

Then, as ex-Gov. Baxter recently explained, that all bills for the memorial should be met by his administration and not embarrass his successor. Checks were drawn by the state treasurer, payable to Miss Paeff's order, and were locked up for safe keeping with a trust company until they should come due. Previously, however, the sum of $5,000 had been paid the artist to bind the contract.

So far so good. Miss Paeff worked steadily on the relief and a month or two ago finally completed the clay model from which the bronze was to be cast. She was pleased with her work and thought it would be a good notion to invite the Governor of Maine to view it. But by this time Baxter had retired from office and when the executive of the state came It was Brewster, who has a very distinct ideas of his own.

The dramatic force and the artistic quality of the relief were striking, he said. It was skillfully modeled and the symbolic design was deeply impressive. But -- and he mentioned this with disarming mildness -- he doubted whether such a design would be entirely satisfactory to the people of Maine, who expected an appropriate memorial for the deeds of their sons in war.

Miss Paeff pointed out that it was perhaps somewhat late to attempt to change the figures, the design and the whole spirit of the piece, and reminded Gov. Brewster that she was simply carrying out her end of the contract which had been legally and bindingly made with his predecessor.

There are four figures in Miss Paeff's embattled relief. Two of them are the torsos of dead youths, their bodies and features twisted in agony, who are lying at the feet of a horror-stricken mother clasping a baby in her arms. Besides one of the corpses is a dog and in the background is a whirling wrack of midst [sic] suggesting mystery and terror. It is a large panel, 8 by 13 feet.

Reprinted with permission from The Portsmouth Herald
Wednesday, August 26, 1925