Lafayette returns to Yorktown at statue unveiling

Contact ReporterYork/Poquoson reporter

Three of the leading figures in the American victory at Yorktown and in the Revolutionary War now stand on Riverwalk Landing.

At a ceremony Wednesday, a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette joined statues of George Washington and Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse, which were erected in 2005.

The display was celebrated as a symbol of French and American friendship that several people at the ceremony said started with the popularity of Lafayette and his love for the United States.

Michel Carbonnier, consul general to the French Embassy, called Lafayette an ultimate symbol of friendship, heroism, courage and commitment to freedom and democracy. He said those ideals feel especially relevant in the turmoil of today.

Along with the statue, a plaque was installed to explain Lafayette’s legacy. It highlights his role as a general in the siege of Yorktown and says “Lafayette saw the Yorktown Campaign as a victory in the continuing international struggle for what he called the ‘Rights of Mankind.’”

Three people served as models of Lafayette for Cyd Player, the Williamsburg-based artist who sculpted the three statues. She spent about 10 months on Lafayette.

Player said David Bowditch, who is credited with initiating the effort to get the third statue, modeled Lafayette’s hands and feet. Bowditch, who stands about as tall as Washington, also modeled for that statue — Player said she picked him out because he had good calves.

Julien Icher, a French geography student at the College of William and Mary, and Mark Schneider, who portrays Lafayette in Williamsburg, also modeled, providing most of the measurements that Player used.

Alan Hoffman, president of the American Friends of Lafayette, joked that he wasn’t the right build to portray Lafayette, but guessed that Player copied his nose.

Chuck Schwam, a Friends of Lafayette member who led the ceremony, said the next project may be getting a statue of French general comte de Rochambeau, drawing affirmation from the crowd.

The American Friends of Lafayette led the fundraising for the statue and credited the Celebrate Yorktown Committee for being the top donor. The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati and members of the Ordre Lafayette contributed as well.

The statues are on the sidewalk along Water Street at the Riverwalk near the Freight Shed.

Reyes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4692. Follow him on Twitter @jdauzreyes.

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