Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Westfield Statue
The President’s Whiskers
In far western New York, where the Finger Lakes region ends and the Great Lakes begin to make their presence known, one will find the most charming memorial in Upstate. The two central figures are familiar and yet curious. A towering U.S. president and a little girl holding a tiny bouquet of flowers. And that is it, in its entirety. Of course the president was Abraham Lincoln and the story of the president and the little girl is one of the most famous tales to come out of Upstate.
Lincoln was running for the presidency when he received a fan letter from an 11-year old girl, Grace Bedell of Westfield, N.Y. She was imploring him to grow some whiskers on his bare face so “all the ladies would vote for him.” Unbelievably, this seemingly innocuous letter reached the candidate’s desk and he read it and answered the little girl.
He agreed. He grew the whiskers.
After he was elected, Lincoln’s victory train made a stop in Westfield on his way to his inauguration. The tall president-elect came to the rear of the station and hollered to the huge crowd to “bring me the little girl, Grace Bedell.” Grace was there with her family and she shyly approached the soon-to-be president with a small bouquet in her hands. Mr. Lincoln reached down to give her a kiss on her cheek and the little girl reached up and rubbed his new grown whiskers. Lincoln whispered to the young girl, “Gracie, I have been growing them for you!” A roar went up from the crowd, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Much has been written about the meeting of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell that day but sculptor Don Sottile, of Himrod, N.Y., created a timeless, poignant and beautiful life size double statue of this famous event that is the perfect anecdote to this delightful story. Many visitors come to the spot where the memorial is (corner of US Rt. 20 and NYS Rt. 394) during their visit to this region.
Westfield is grape country. The village is surrounded by many large vineyards and the was actually the birthplace of Welch’s Grape Juice (1897). The last remaining original building of the factory, Welch’s Building Factory #1, is still standing in downtown Westfield and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
In our next visit we will explore the “Home of Baseball” (or is it?) and the famous statue of “The Sandlot Kid.”