Local Neighborhood War Memorials

Remembering the fallen is a relatively new idea. War memorials used to commemorate victories, like the Arc de Triumph in Paris, where the fallen are not named. This began to change around the turn-of-the last century. Memorials listing war dead can be seen in town centers in the U.S. as well as Europe. They are uncatalogued; it is exciting to discover them by chance.


I was in my birth town, Baltimore, with a friend recently and we found an unusual war memorial. A number of elegant plaques had grown into a small collection in a little nook at the front corner of St. Leo’s Catholic Church (227 South Exeter St.) in Little Italy. The plaques started at World War One and worked their way to the present. They list all from the parish who have fought. A star was placed by the names of those killed. It is a sweet tribute to an almost exclusively Italian group of boys.


If you check it out, Little Italy is a ghost town. Though we heard an older couple speaking Italian as they walked, a restaurant dating back more than 70 years was closed. Its building was for sale. You can watch residents play bocce ball at the neighborhood bocce court, but that and a handful of restaurants (no markets!) comprise what had been a bustling Italian enclave at one time.


Will the war memorial tradition at small venues like neighborhood parishes go the way of once-thriving city neighborhoods?


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