In Blue Back Square in West Hartford, Connecticut, there stands a towering tribute to Noah Webster. The Connecticut native is known as a pioneer of American English spelling and is credited with creating the first American dictionary. His stern-faced statue peers over those passing by the public library, which was named after him.
The statue was sculpted in the early 1940s and was gifted to the town by its creator, Korczak Ziolkowski (the man who went on to create South Dakota’s iconic Crazy Horse Memorial). When Blue Back Square, a shopping center that was named for the famous “Blue-Back Speller,” was completed in 2007, the statue was relocated to its current location.
The town unveiled a three-dimensional mural centering around the alphabet to accompany the statue of Webster. The artwork contains tiles that use the letters of the alphabet to highlight different aspects of the local area, like “E” for the Elmwood neighborhood; “K” for Kilkenny Rock; and “O” for Old Center Cemetery.
However, there was a slight problem with the original mural—there was a glaring typo, right beneath the marble nose of one of the most renowned grammar snobs. Old Center Cemetery, where Webster’s parents are buried, was originally spelled “Old Center Cemetary.”
People quickly noticed that the statue of Webster looked grave and angry. Many in the community jokingly suggested it was because his disapproval at the misspelling could not be hidden from his chiseled features.
After much public mockery, the town finally fixed the error and once again the homage to spelling is accurate and complete. Sadly for the poor statue, it wasn’t the first controversy to surround it. Webster’s pointed, marble finger has attracted some unwanted attention as well. It’s been stolen, had condoms put on it, and allegedly even offended high society West Hartford ladies who thought it looked too phallic.
Know Before You Go
Parking in Blue Back Square can be difficult. The best bet is to park in Isham Garage. It's a short walk to the statue. When you leave Isham Garage walk toward the library and look for the stairs. The mural is on a wall along the stairs and the statue of Noah Webster is at the top of the stairs.