George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park located in downtown Vincennes, Indiana, on the banks of the Wabash River at what is believed to be the site of Fort Sackville. A classical memorial here was authorized under President Coolidge and dedicated by Roosevelt in 1936.
In a celebrated campaign, Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark, and his frontiersmen captured Fort Sackville and British Lt. Governor Henry Hamilton on February 25, 1779. The heroic march of Clark's men from Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in mid-winter and the subsequent victory over the British remains one of the great feats of the American Revolution.
In 1966 Indiana transferred the site to the National Park Service. Adjacent to the memorial there is a visitor center where one can see interpretive programs and displays. The center is located on South 2nd Street in Vincennes.
The memorial is placed where Fort Sackville is believed to have been established; no archeological evidence has shown the exact location, but it is undoubtedly within the park's boundaries. The episode being commemorated marked the finest moment in General George Rogers Clark's life. He was sent by the state of Virginia to protect their interest in the Old Northwest. His 1778-1779 campaign included the founding of Louisville, Kentucky and the capture of British forts in the lower Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Forces under Clark's command had captured Fort Sackville months before, but when notified that British forces under Henry Hamilton had retaken the fort, Clark led a desperate march to retake the fort again for the American cause, succeeding on February 25, 1779. This led to the newly United States being able to claim control of what would become the modern day states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the Treaty of Paris (1783).
During the 1800s the exact location of Fort Sackville became lost, as Vincennes grew. In 1905 the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a stone marker where they believed Fort Sackville was located. By the 1920s a major effort was made to remember the 150th anniversary of Clark's campaign. The state of Indiana chose to build a memorial to General Clark's triumph in the 1930s, with the assistance of the United States government; the various funds amounted to $2,500,000. The memorial was designed by New York architect Frederic Charles Hirons and dedicated on June 14, 1936, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Though the National Park Service in 1976 called the finished memorial the "last major Classical style memorial" constructed in the United States, the New York State Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History by John Russell Pope was also completed in 1936, and Pope's Jefferson Memorial in Washington was completed during 1939-1943.
The memorial building is a circular granite building, surrounded by sixteen granite fluted Greek Doric columns in a peripteral colonnade, under a saucer dome of glass panels (illustration). It is raised on a stylobate. The north and east corners have restrooms and various maintenance rooms. Except for the maintenance rooms, these feature plastered walls and ceilings, marble wainscoting, and terrazzo flooring. Visitors enter the memorial by climbing thirty granite steps in the northwest corner. The basement underneath is is unfinished, with fluorescent lighting revealing a ceiling and walls of exposed concrete, and a dirt floor.
The interior includes a full complement of murals by Ezra Winter.
There are other prominent features in the park. First, John Angel's statue of Francis Vigo, a 4' by 9' by 11' granite statue honoring the Italian-American merchant who assisted General Clark, built in 1934. Nearby, a Gibault statue.jpg by Albin Polasek honors Father Pierre Gibault, also added in 1934. The Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash River was purposely designed to match the memorial aesthetically and includes relief carvings designed by Raoul Josset. A concrete floodwall built in Classical style to protect the memorial and Vincennes from Wabash flooding was also designed to compliment the memorial. There is also a memorial to the soldiers from Knox County who served in World War I, a marker denoting where Clark's headquarters probably stood during his siege of Fort Sackville, and the original Daughters of the American Revolution memorial, moved several times due to the construction of the main memorial.
In Late July 2008 George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is scheduled to be closed for a year in order for a three-million-dollar renovation, being done by Frontier Waterproofing of Denton, Texas. Superintendent of the park Dale Phillips said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime restoration project, and is critically needed for the long-term preservation of the Clark Memorial". The main goal is to fix the drainage of the terrace, which has leaked since the 1930s, and renovate the access steps. The visitors' center will remain open, with admission fees waived during the closure of the memorial. The Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous in 2009 is not believed to be impacted by the renovation.