A rock in a hard place rolls on to new home

16-ton memorial, which has been hit by cars, will move to less-trafficked corner of Washington Park

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Correction: Published March 12, 2006 A story in Wednesday's Capital Region section contained incorrect information about Marinus Willett's political career in New York. Willett ran for lieutenant governor in 1811, but he lost the election to DeWitt Clinton.

He was famous for his deadly swordplay and hand-to-hand combat in the Revolutionary and French and Indian wars.

Col. Marinus Willett's memorial is a 33,000-pound granite boulder the size of a compact car that sits on a traffic island at the east corner of Washington Park. The back of the rock faces Henry Johnson Boulevard. The plaque commemorating Willett faces a cul-de-sac known among locals as a good place to find a late-night parking spot. After 99 years, the rock is on the move. This morning, a crane with a custom-made sling will hoist the 16-ton boulder onto a flatbed trailer for a 60-yard journey to the corner of State and Willett streets.

"They say he was one of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat sol diers you could ever come across," said Robert Stackpole, president of the New York chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. "He was one of these go-to guys and I think very well liked by George Washington and the senior command."

With Gen. Richard Montgomery, Willett led the Continental Army invasion of Canada and the brief capture of Montreal.

In his civilian life, he attended Kings College, now Columbia University. He became mayor of New York City, then New York's lieutenant governor.

In 1907, the Sons of the American Revolution placed the rock next to Willett Street, which was named in his honor, at the entrance to Washington Park.

"For his gallant and patriotic services in defense of Albany and the people of the Mohawk against Tory and Indian foes during the years of the War for Independence," the plaque reads.

In recent years, Willett's memorial ended up as a road hazard. The occasional vehicle missed the turn and crashed there. This winter, the board overseeing the park's 200th anniversary decided the boulder should be moved.

According to the plaque, the rock's rough lines and solid mass were supposed to reflect Willett's "rugged character," and came from "the scenes of conflict" where he fought.

Those scenes would have been quite a ways off, Stackpole said, the closest battle being Saratoga Springs.

Colin McDonald can be reached at 454-5441 or by e-mail at cmcdonald@timesunion.com.