2018-07-12 / Front Page

Rochambeau Gets Royal Treatment

By James Merolla

The rebuilding of the pyramid monument at King Park is underway. 
(Photo by Lynne Tungett) The rebuilding of the pyramid monument at King Park is underway. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) The Alliance Française of Newport is celebrating Bastille Day and its 65th anniversary by rebuilding the pyramid base of the Rochambeau statue in King Park on Wellington Avenue. Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille, a fortress and prison in Paris, on July 14, 1789, which directly led to the French Revolution.

A wreath will be laid at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 14 at the base of the Rochambeau Monument, which the Alliance is restoring block-by-block, along with elevating a seawall, and cleaning the statue. The project will cost $250,000.

“[That] is a lot of money,” said Mary-Gail Smith, president of the Alliance. “This has been several years in the making. We are 100 percent volunteer. There is no paid staff, no building [and] no office. We are very fortunate that we have reached the $215,000 mark in donations. The work will be completed when we have the full amount.”

Smith said the work is being done in three phases. First, they will fix the pyramid behind the imposing larger-than-life figure of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, the French nobleman and general who helped the 13 colonies gain independence from England. That will cost $104,200.

“The mortar and bricks began to crumble,” Smith said. “It was a safety concern and the city decided to board it up. It is a huge undertaking. We are taking the entire pyramid apart. Hundreds of blocks are being removed. We are storing them and we have to put them together again.”

The second phase is raising the seawall near the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, at a cost of $75,000. “We have the money in hand to begin that,” Smith said.

The third phase is cleaning the Rochambeau statue. “You can’t just take an 80-year-old bronze statue and scrub that back to its original condition,” Smith said. “That is the portion we are still raising money for.”

To help, the Alliance is hosting a luncheon at the Conanicut Yacht Club in Jamestown at noon on Monday, July 16. The luncheon features a presentation, “From Dangerous Threat to Illustrious Ally: Changing Perceptions of France in the Eighteenth Century,” by John Quinn, a faculty member in the history department at Salve -Regina University.

The time to reserve tickets has passed, but donations and inquiries may be made at afnewportri@gmail.com.

The Alliance Française of Newport is affiliated with the Fédération des Alliances Françaises, which has nearly 1,500 Chapters in 138 countries worldwide and is dedicated to the study of the French language and to promoting cultural exchange. Members of the Alliance participate in conversation groups and cultural events. Fluency in French is not required.

For more information, visit them at alliancefrancaisenewportri.org or on Facebook.

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