When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, Dr. Charles Bressler-Pettis had an idea. Retired from practice, he embarked on a project for his hometown of Kissimmee, Florida, that would both honor the unity of the United States, and bring tourists to Osceola County.
The result is the Monument of States. Rising up 50 feet tall and weighing an estimated 100,000 pounds, the unusual structure is halfway between an obelisk and a pyramid, and is made from donated rocks, fossils, and plaques from each of the (then) 48 states and several foreign countries.
Apart from being a retired doctor, Bressler-Pettis was also the president of the Kissimmee All-States Tourist Club, and in the wake of the attack on December 7th he sprang into action to solicit items from around the country. His goal was to create a testament to U.S. solidarity as it headed into another world war.
Dr. Bressler-Pettis may have been inspired by another project, Minnesota’s Fireplace of States made several years earlier by the WPA. He wrote to the governors of every State asking for donations, and thousands were sent back to Kissimmee. The project soon reached people around the world, and several countries joined in with their own contributions. Even President Roosevelt sent a stone from his New York estate at Hyde Park.
Local volunteers, including many seniors and retirees, gave time and materials to help build and paint the monument, and their names are etched on the nearby sidewalk. Rocks kept coming, including from the later states of Alaska and Hawaii, and were attached to surrounding walkways. One final contribution was made: so connected to the project was the good doctor, some of his remains are sealed inside.