• Caroline Martin

Baron Steuben Hessian Soldiers 1929

Soldier Names (from left to right): Captain Jacob, Friedrich, Franz, Immanuel

These four wooden sculptures, approximately four feet in height each, once stood proudly over the bar at the famous Baron Steuben Hotel in Corning, NY, and now stand guard in the Corning-Painted Post Historical Society Archive.

The Baron Steuben Hotel was active from 1928 to 1974. At the time it was built, it was the most upscale building in the area with cutting edge accommodations, such as indoor toilets and showers. According to a description from the Corning Evening Leader “accommodations and services [are] equal to the best in the modern hotels…the prices for meals and rates for rooms will be within reach of all.”

The name “Baron Steuben Hessian Soldiers” is somewhat misleading as the hotel itself is named after the American Revolutionary war hero Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (for which Steuben county is also named) who commanded American troops, not Hessian troops. The sculptures, therefore, are named after the hotel, not von Steuben himself.

The Hessians were auxiliary troops from the German state Hesse-Cassel who were hired by King George III of Great Britain to aid the British troops during the American Revolution. Thirty thousand Hessian troops were sent to the American colonies. They were despised by the colonists as they became known for plundering and looting. One of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence condemned the King for using “large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny.”

As the war drew on more and more Hessian soldiers deserted their army and switched sides. By the end of the war over four thousand Hessian soldiers had deserted and around three thousand of those stayed in the newly formed United States and became citizens.

Though I could not confirm the intentions of the owner in commissioning and displaying these statues over the bar of the Baron Steuben hotel, it is my belief that it is in homage to those Hessian soldiers brave enough to turn their backs on the British in order to join the Americans in their struggle for freedom against tyranny.

Materials in the archive at the Corning-Painted Post Historical Society can be made available by appointment only. If you wish to see or donate to our archival collections please call 607-937-5281.

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