Liberty Pole by James Johnson

Liberty Pole
Location: Liberty Pole Plaza, at the corner of Main and Franklin Streets
Rochester, NY (view Google map)
Material: Fabricated stainless steel
Dated: 1965

Description: A modern interpretation of a traditional liberty pole

Caption: "Rochester has had Liberty Poles at the same site since 1830, according to some accounts, with as many as ten in various other locations in the 1840s. They were often hickory or ash poles erected by political clubs as symbols of their strength.

The first well documented Liberty Pole was erected in 1846 by the East Side Boys as a patriotic symbol for the celebration of the Fourth of July. It was 118 feet tall, topped by a massive gilded ball. Banners or flags were often hung to celebrate victories such as the Mexican War. That pole was cut down by authorities after it was damaged by a storm in 1859.

The next liberty pole was purchased with public donation for $150.00. It stood 102 feet tall. A weather vane and a tin ball containing a number of public documents were at the top. At the outbreak of the Civil War a huge American flag, 30 feet by 17 1/2 feet and a banner 75 feet long were attached as symbols of the city's steadfast loyalty.

The site became a market area for farmers and the liberty pole contributed the identity for the intersection of two important avenues for decades, even after it crashed to the ground in a gale the day after Christmas in 1889. A plan to replace that pole with a steel pole was discussed but forgotten because funds were not available, until the 1960s when James Johnson and a group of artists revived the plan that resulted in the present liberty pole. It is again a very prominent landmark, serving as the site for rallies, war protests, and political campaigns."