Mary Cahalan statue

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Mary Cahalan statue in 2007

The Mary Cahalan statue is a marble monument to former Powell School teacher and principal Mary Cahalan located in the southeast quarter of Linn Park, just outside the entrance to the Linn-Henley Research Library.

When Cahalan died in 1906, there was an immediate public movement to erect a statue in her honor. Early plans included a memorial drinking fountain for East Park, located near her school. Soon, though, a portrait statue in marble was commissioned from sculptor Giuseppe Moretti.

The subject's measurements were taken after her death by Edna Smith. The statue was carved from a single block of bluish-white Talladega marble. Moretti was assisted by Geneva Mercer and the Talladega Marble Company. It was dedicated on May 1, 1908. The 5-foot-tall statue depicts Cahalan seated and reading a book. The base, also five feet tall, is inscribed "Mary A. Cahalan, Teacher" on the front, and "Erected by the People of Birmingham" on the back.

In 1917 journalist Julian Street visited Birmingham and critiqued the city's three public monuments: "One is a Confederate monument in the form of an obelisk, and the other two are statues erected in memory of Mary A. Cahalan, for many years principal of the Powell School, and of William Elias B. Davis, a distinguished surgeon. Workers in these fields are too seldom honored in this way, and the spirit which prompted the erection of these monuments is particularly creditable; sad to say, however, both effigies are wretchedly placed and are in themselves exceedingly poor things. Art is something, indeed, about which Birmingham has much to learn."

In March 1950 one of the statue's arms was removed and carried off by vandals. The Birmingham Park and Recreation Board arranged for a repair.

Postcard of statue in Capitol Park

In 1980 the National Geodetic Survey embedded a steel rod benchmark northwest of the statue, using it a reference point. The benchmark is located at 33°31'13" N by -86°48'30" W at an altitude of 614.52 feet above mean sea level. (locate)

On March 17, 1998 (St Patrick's Day), a plaque was installed on the base of the monument, reading: "Mary A. Cahalan, Teacher and Principal, Powell School, 1874-1906. Miss Cahalan moved to Birmingham in 1872 from Columbus, Georgia with her Irish parents and six brothers and sisters. This statue was donated by the people of Birmingham and dedicated May 1, 1908."

In 2006 the Friends of Linn Park hired sculptor Dale Chambliss to restore and conserve the statue, which was suffering from soil, frost damage, and a broken nose. A video documentary, produced by Tom MacKnight chronicled the restoration process, including in-depth backstory on Cahalan, Moretti and Alabama's marble industry written by Russell Hubbard.

The statue is featured in Jay Taylor's parody The Moretti Code.

Giuseppe Moretti
 Associates  Dorothea Moretti · Geneva Mercer · P. S. Arkwright · Henry Atkinson · C. J. Harrah
Works 1904 Moretti bas-relief · Mary Cahalan statue · William Elias B. Davis statue · Head of Christ · Patrick O'Reilly statue · Vulcan
Other Monte Pino · Gibson-Moretti Marble Company · Moretti-Harrah Marble Company · The Moretti Code


  • Monumental News (July 1908) pp. 502-3
  • Street, Julian (1917) American Adventures: A Second Trip "Abroad at Home" New York: The Century Co.
  • "From Where I Stand" (March 1950) Birmingham News via Birmingham Rewound
  • Alabama survey, Save Outdoor Sculpture (1993) "Mary A. Cahalan, (sculpture)." Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inventory of American Sculpture, control #AL000206 - accessed April 12, 2010
  • Hubbard, Russell (September 25, 2006) "After years of neglect, Linn Park statue gets facelift." Birmingham News.
  • Jordan, Phillip (March 24, 2005) "Moretti's assistant: Alabama's own Geneva Mercer." Birmingham Weekly.

External links