By Allison Mowatt
A unique monument honoring deceased Wayne County Civil War veterans recently received a much needed facelift thanks to community fundraising efforts, but the work in beautifying this historic relic is far from over.
Last fall, Vic Gavin, former Exhibits Specialist for the Monuments Preservation Branch of the Gettysburg National Military Park, came to Honesdale’s Central Park to clean and restore the patina of the Civil War monument and plaques situated near the fountain.
Leadership Wayne’s Steve Clark contacted him for his expertise and was fortunate to have Mr. Gavin agree to do the restoration. The class, which is sponsored every other year through the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, spearheads a new project that will enhance Wayne County and raises funds or volunteers for it. “It’s an indescribable experience,” said Leadership Wayne member, Orley White. “It’s a way to learn about Wayne County’s infrastructure and the interconnections between the various sectors of our community from the local arts to local government.” The group brainstormed ideas and looked to the life-sized bronze figure of the Civil War infantry man. It stands on a granite pedestal with copper plaques engraved depicting the names and units of Wayne County’s soldiers who perished in the conflict. The class decided to raise money to refresh this significant part of Wayne County’s past since it had oxidized and the metal had eroded. In addition, the group also hoped to raise enough funds to get the cast iron fencing which surrounds the monument replaced and to be able to pay for the monument’s continued maintenance. The class has raised approximately $14,500, $8,400 of which was just enough to get the monument itself cleaned and preserved. Another $1,000 went for re-pointing the granite base.
The call for this project brought Mr. Gavin to Honesdale for the first time. “The monument hadn’t been treated since it was erected about one hundred years ago, which isn’t unusual for monuments in parks,” said Mr. Gavin. Although the bronze figure hadn’t been cleaned in over a century, restoring it was a success and only took Mr. Gavin about four days . He began by washing the residue off and then blasting the monument with about sixty-five pounds of walnut shells. “This is similar to sandblasting and will remove the oxidation without removing the metal.” Then, he washed it again and gave it a special wax treatment. In order to do this, Mr. Gavin heated the metal on the monument to about 170 degrees so the wax flowed smoothly and wouldn’t clump. He gave the monument two coats of hot wax and then hand buffed and polished it. “It’s a good idea to wax a metal monument every four to six years. Continued maintenance on monuments eliminates other tasks such as blasting it with walnut shells.”
The monument was in rough condition but generally only suffered the prolonged damaging effects of the weather. Luckily, it hadn’t been vandalized at all, probably because of the fence surrounding it. The fence, which is of Civil War vintage, is past the point of repair, as the cast iron is rusted, thin, and broken. It is even held together with baling wiring in some places. The fence is in desperate need of a facelift so it can continue protecting this beautiful monument and look as nice as the monument does. According to Mr. Gavin, restoration is more involved since the fence will require re-casting, which is costly and time consuming. The group hopes to raise additional funds to meet the $13,600 needed to replace the fence and have funds left over for the monument’s continued maintenance. The projected fundraising limit will pay for the fabrication, painting, and installation of a wrought iron fence of an appropriate design.
In the past, fundraising efforts included operating food booths at area events, sending letters seeking donations, personally appealing to local businesses and individuals for donations, and utilizing the press to generate awareness. Leadership Wayne has received generous donations from several of the local businesses and many individuals. In addition, they are applying for a grant, but every donation counts. The class hopes to have the project completed this fall and have a re-dedication ceremony in the park.