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Monument Rehabilitation

by Barbara J. Finfrock

One possible description for preservation projects wherever they may be seems to be “never-ending” or perhaps “on-going.”

Monuments on highways and park avenues must be cared for in order to ensure their safety and their appearance so they may be used for educational purposes.

As part of its mission, Gettysburg Foundation (GF), partnering with the National Park Service (NPS), is dedicated to this task within the boundaries of the Gettysburg National Military Park (GETT), the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and the Eisenhower National Historic Site (EISE). 

Many of the nearly 1,700 monuments, tablets, markers, and cannons have been on the battlefield for more than 130 years and require extensive maintenance and repair.  All are considered to be important cultural resources and are listed individually on the National Register documentation of the military park. The need for continued preservation is caused by one or more threats such as structural defects, erosion, vandalism, material-related defects, accidents, and deferred maintenance. 

As the park’s partner in preservation and education since 1989 (as the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg), the Gettysburg Foundation has funded a wide variety of preservation projects, including the removal and undergrounding of utility lines, the removal of non-historic structures such as motels and houses, acquisition of museum artifacts, acquisition and preservation of land, the cannon carriage restoration shop, and large and small monument cleaning and restoration. Two major projects for GETT are currently scheduled for the third quarter of FY20, possibly  in April 2021. The NPS Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) will assist the local park maintenance crew with both of these projects. Schedules of HPTC staff may impact these dates.

The U.S. Regulars monument in Gettysburg

The U.S. Regulars monument is among the battlefield sites schedued for repair.

One of the current projects for GF and NPS is the US Regulars monument which was erected by the Congress to commemorate  the services of that portion of the Army of the Potomac composed of cavalry, artillery, infantry and engineers of the Regular Army of the United States in the Gettysburg Campaign June-July 1863. Four large bronze plaques are set into each side of the lowest level  of the monument to describe and enumerate the units of each of those portions. Located on Hancock Avenue, the monument is 85 feet high, carved from Mount Airy granite by sculptor Karl Bitter.  It was dedicated on May 30, 1909.

The needed repairs will not require the dismantling of the monument, but will require that it is cordoned off from close- up visitation. Cleaning of the various parts will be done prior to restoring the surfaces  to their original luster and appearance, including color of the paving stones. The bronze plaques on all four sides will be covered to protect them from abrasive cleaning solutions. Scaffolding will be constructed to the height of the monument and all tasks on the obelisk itself will be completed using a man-lift. 

The second project for the summer is the preservation of six equestrian monuments honoring Generals George G. Meade, John Fulton Reynolds, Oliver O. Howard, Winfield S. Hancock, Henry W. Slocum, and Robert E. Lee on the Virginia state monument. Each of these monuments is large and will require scaffolding and work platforms. Each of these monuments will require cleaning the stone elements using a combination of micro-abrasive solution and cold-water pressure washing with an antimicrobial detergent.  

Masonry repairs will include a thorough inspection of all construction joints on all monument sections. The Virginia, Hancock, and Howard monuments are expected to require comprehensive mortar removal and replacement for all construction joints. The Meade, Reynolds, and Slocum monuments are not expected to require a comprehensive repointing effort, but will be evaluated by the trained preservation craftsmen on each site. 

At the completion of the projects, the work sites will be cleared  of construction and cleaning equipment, and the priceless artifacts will be acceptable for close-up viewing by the pubic once again.  

For the past 40 years, Gettysburg’s national park monument preservation maintenance program has continued to develop new and more efficient methods to care for the treasures entrusted to their care. It’s part of the enabling legislation of this park to “preserve such memorial structures as a generous and patriotic people may aid to erect.”

These projects will eliminate some of the threats  and lessen others and thereby help to preserve these irreplaceable resources. The Foundation is proud to be a partner in these efforts. 

For the US Regulars monument project, the total projected cost is $203,664; GF will provide 50.3% of the total coast, and NPS will provide 49.7%. For the six equestrian monuments the total projected cost is $174,827; GF will provide 50.2% and NPS will provide 49.8%.


This Preservation Spotlight originally appeared in the August 2019 edition of "Preservation & Progress," the quarterly publication of the Gettysburg Foundation.

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