Let's pause in the midst of our monument fight to remember some favorites that don't honor generals or presidents and that nobody wants to tear down. Above, the Charles B. Stover bench in Central Park, alias the Whisper Bench, the only memorial to the man who filled New York with parks and playgrounds.
Statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog on the campus of the University of Maryland.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I have loved this since I was a child; it is probably the only work of art that could be called "modern" about which that is true. It just soars. And it doesn't look like anything else, which in our era of increasingly identical cities counts for a lot; without it, could anybody tell the St. Louis skyline from dozens of others?
Swann Memorial Fountain, Philadelphia. In a triumph of appropriateness, this is a memorial to Dr. Wilson Cary Swann, founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society. Swann was one of those Temperance fanatics who thought the best way to fight alcohol was to put fountains of pure water all over the city, and whatever you think of Temperance Philadelphia got hundreds of fountains out of the effort.
Statue of screenwriter James Dalton Trumbo in Grand Junction, Colorado. Trumbo was said to have done most of his best work in his bathtub, so that is how he is depicted in his home town. Trumbo was blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1950s but continued to write under pseudonyms and in 1954 he won the Oscar (for Roman Holiday) under one of his assumed names; the award was picked up by an actor hired to play the imaginary writer. He went back to his own name in 1960 when he wrote two blockbusters, Exodus and Spartacus.
Stone circle in Radnor, Pennsylvania, a monument to the town's Welsh founders. By William Reimann. Used by local druids within months of its installation.
Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass having tea, Rochester, New York. In a little park across the street from Anthony's house. I love this because it reminds us that in most ways 19th-century radicals were very proper people, and because it emphasizes that politics is a social matter in which connections to others are all important. Statue is by Pepsy Kettavong, 2001.
Gus Worham Memorial Fountain, Houston, which is both beautiful and one of the world's few monuments to an insurance executive. He was the kind of civic-minded guy who was on all the boards and commissions and donated to every cause; he also went fishing with all the politicians but never took any kind of controversial stand in public and never betrayed a single confidence. Maybe he had some awful opinions but since he never expressed them, we can't really hold that against him.
Glenn Frey of the Eagles, standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.
I plan to expand this post and I would love to hear from people about other obscure monuments they know that make the world nicer without offending anybody.