Nathan Hale Statue, 401 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Nathan Hale Statue

Address: 401 Summit Avenue
Neighborhood/s: Summit Hill, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Ramsey County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1907
Primary Style: Beaux Arts
Builder: Daughters of the American Revolution
Historic Function: Statue/Monument
Current Function of Structure: Statue/Monument

Summit Hill Saint Paul Ramsey

Nathan Hale Statue, 401 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota
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Erected as a gift to the city by the Nathan Hale Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, in 1907, this life-sized statue of Nathan Hale stands on a promontory of land created by merging Summit and Portland Avenues. It is the first monument west of Ohio to honor the Revolutionary War.


Historical Background

The Nathan Hale statue was created by William Ordway Partridge (1861-1930) who was born in Paris to a wealthy American merchant family. The family returned to the United States in 1870. Mr. Partridge studied art at Columbia College where he developed a life-long interest in theatre. Later, he traveled extensively through Europe and studied sculpture at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris and in Rome.

Upon returning to America he continued his art education. In 1902, Partridge published an historical character study of Nathan Hale, The Ideal Patriot. Shortly thereafter, Saint Paul's sculpture was commissioned by the Nathan Hale Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Partridge worked more than 5 years on the piece, seeking a depiction of Hale that would be "inspired and vital to the living present."

The bronze sculpture depicts Nathan Hale with hands tied behind his back, waiting to meet his fate on the scaffold. He is dressed in the simple garb of a schoolmaster. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press exclaimed that "the attitude is a striking one, full of strength and dignity."

By 1990 the noble structure's condition had badly deteriorated. The environment had taken its toll, with acid snow corroding the bronze and original patina. In the 1970s, a boomtruck working on elm removal struck the sculpture's pedestal with such force that it ripped the sculpture and its 800 pound base from the pedestal and sent them flying through the air. When it landed, the sculpture's feet were twisted and mangled. The work was hauled off to a storage lot where it was left on the ground in the snow and mud for almost a year. When an attempt was made to restore it and put it back in place, a monument company was called in. They sand-blasted the bronze as though it were stone, pitting it horribly. Not being able to figure out how to reattach the figure's feet to a base, they sawed off the heels and bolted the statue to the base with lead pins -- inviting galvanic corrosion. These pins had completely disintegrated by 1993, leaving the sculpture with no attachment whatsoever.

Public Art Saint Paul engaged the Upper Midwest Conservation Association to clean and restore the work which was re-dedicated in July, 1995. The DAR, University Club, the City of Saint Paul, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, and over 100 private individuals supported and celebrated the restoration.


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Summit Avenue Tour

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Historic Hill District

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Identified as being at risk through the SOS! Survey in 1993, the sculpture was completely cleaned and restored by Public Art Saint Paul in 1995 with support from the F. R. Bigelow Foundation and Yale University Alumni.


Hale was an American Revolutionary soldier hanged by the British as a spy. He was an officer for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Widely considered America's first spy, he volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission, but was captured by the British. He is best remembered for his speech before being hanged following the Battle of Long Island. According to tradition, his last words were "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

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