General Tadeusz Kościuszko was a true son of the Enlightenment Age and a hero in the struggle for human rights. Born in Poland in 1746, he studied military engineering in France, volunteered for the cause of American independence and led a valiant but doomed fight for freedom from foreign occupation in Poland. In his life and at his death, Kościuszko steadfastly promoted the principle that “all men are created equal.”  At a time when many of our own founding fathers owned slaves, Kościuszko left a will directing that his US holdings be sold, with the proceeds used to purchase freedom and education for African slaves in America.

Decades after Kościuszko’s death in 1817, the Polish people still lived under foreign rule in their own land. As a result, like so many other Europeans seeking independence and opportunity, large numbers of Polish immigrants came to America in the last half of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Many settled in Milwaukee, where approximately 50,000 Poles comprised the city’s second largest ethnic group in 1900. Because of his status as a popular hero in both Poland and America, Kościuszko was especially revered by Polish Americans. From their meager working class incomes, the Polish citizens of Milwaukee privately raised over $13,000 (roughly $360,000 in today's dollars) during the early 1900’s to create a monument to their hero in newly renamed Kościuszko Park on Milwaukee’s South Side.

Exposed to the elements for more than 100 years, however, the bronze sculpture of Kościuszko on his horse underwent significant deterioration. In 2008, radiography and metal analysis revealed that extensive conservation to both the interior and exterior were needed to maintain the integrity of the monument and ensure its survival for future generations. Spearheaded by the Lincoln Village Business Association and Polanki, the Polish Women’s Cultural Club of Milwaukee, a group of community volunteers formed the Restore Kościuszko Monument Committee and set out to raise the necessary funds. In response, hundreds of individuals and organizations contributed more than $300,000 over a five-year period and the Kościuszko monument was restored to its original strength and beauty in 2013.

In addition to the private funds raised, both Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee contributed a combined $110,000 to upgrade the area surrounding the monument—making this a true public/private partnership.  New pavement, lighting, landscaping and a flagpole represent long-overdue improvements at the site, which now provides a setting worthy of the jewel at the center. The restored monument and new surrounding plaza were rededicated on November 11, 2013.

Going forward, an endowment fund has been created to provide for regular maintenance in order to ensure that the statue is preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Click on each photo for a larger image.
General Kosciuszko has returned
General Kosciuszko has returned General Kosciuszko has returned