Conservation Solutions, Inc: Art + Architecture + Artifacts

Oak Bluffs Soldiers Memorial Restoration

Oak Bluff, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Township of Oak Bluffs
Heritage Preservation, Historic Preservation, Metal Conservation, Sculpture Conservation, Sculpture Restoration

This six-foot-tall zinc figure of a Union Soldier perched on a cast iron fountain base was presented as a gift to the town of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts by Charles Strahan, a former lieutenant in the Confederate Army who relocated to Martha’s Vineyard in 1891. The stock statue was manufactured by J.W. Fiske of New York City. After its original installation in the Village Square it was moved twice, before settling at its current location. The figure is also reported to have toppled during a hurricane over fifty years ago.

At the time of examination the statue appeared to have been coated with over fifteen layers of paint. The figure was missing several pieces (a hand and a rifle, the band of the soldier’s cap and portions of his ammunition pack) and the solder joints that held the figure to the statue base had were severely compromised. The plinth was deteriorating at such a rate that it appeared that the entire base would need to be reconstructed. In addition, conservation work was needed to reverse the effects of earlier, less skilled repair jobs – one actually performed by a plumber.

The paint was removed, a new stainless steel armature was installed and new zinc formed sheets and castings were created from molds taken from another version of the stock statue. Deformed and damaged sheets were reformed and re-soldered into their original locations. The base of the statue was dis- assembled and restored which included: the removal of all failed coatings, casting and installation of replacement elements, and repainting. The fountain works were refabricated and were made operational for the first time in decades.