The first mention of Manchester, New Hampshire’s Lafayette Park, can be found in the
1903 Receipts and Expenditures of the City of Manchester (NH), when it is stated: “Extensive improvements were made at Lafayette Park which came into possession of the city through the generosity of the Amoskeag Manufacturing company. Edgestones were set, gutters paved and concrete walks laid on the sides of the park and a commencement made in grading the same. Total amount expended $1,000.00.” Lafayette Park is located on the west side of the city near the current day Catholic Medical Center (formerly called Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital).
In 1824 and 1825 when Lafayette revisited the United States, he spent a brief time in New Hampshire, but did not visit this park. I have found some references that infer that he visited Manchester during his second visit to the Amoskeag Tavern, however I could not find any primary evidence of same.
What appears to be the main entrance to the park is at the corner of Amory and Notre Dame Avenues, and is guarded by two lion statues. The park itself is about two acres in size, and includes statues, trees, green lawns, sidewalks and benches.
Exactly who is the Lafayette whom the park is named after? That would be Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who was born into a family of noble military lineage on September 6, 1757, in Chavaniac, France. Learning about the struggles of the American colonies against the British, he travelled here and offered his aid and resources. He eventually developed a strong friendship with George Washington. After the American Revolution he returned to France where he assumed many leadership roles. He died there on 20 May 1834. He was considered a great hero to all, but especially to the French-Canadian immigrants of Manchester who quickly adopted their local park.
On 26 June 1949, a sculpture–a statue of Ferdinand Gagnon, created by Joseph Arthur Coletti–was dedicated. Ferdinand Gagnon had resided briefly in Manchester NH. By 1869 had settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, and died in 1886 at the age of 36. He was an early editor of French-Canadian newspapers, and an activist for the rights of French-Canadian immigrants to New England.
Interestingly another notable work by the same sculptor, Boston-based Joseph A. Coletti, includes the Sumner Tunnel Memorial in Boston MA.
Layfayette Park was dedicated in 1957, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of its namesake, and the monument to Lafayette placed there (see photo to the left).
If you visit the park, take note that a historic building is located within the same block and in view at 418 Notre Dame Avenue–America’s Credit Union Museum.
Recollections of General Lafayette on his visit to the United States in 1824 and 1825, with the most remarkable incidents of his life, from his birth to the day of his death (1879)
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