About the Project
The work began in the summer of 2020, and was initially planned to take 5-6 months. Due to a combination of factors, including the COVID pandemic, the restoration project ended up taking over a year and a half to complete. All of the bronze and stone was removed from the plaza level up, taken offsite to two different conservation studios, with the bronze bas-relief meticulously restored locally. New waterproofing was installed under the plaza’s brick, and a new concrete foundation has been built under the bronze, and everything replaced, pinning the bronze to the marble structure that surrounds it. Also, the team installed a new stainless-steel frame between the bronze and the marble, designed to stabilize the entire monument.
The plaza substructure has been protected by installing a system called “cathodic protection” into the concrete under the plaza. This protects the steel support beams from corrosion by introducing another metal known as sacrificial. Through the use of an electrical current, the corrosion is drawn to the sacrificial metal instead of the steel beams.
The Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial restoration project is complete. While the dramatic removal and reinstallation of the restored Augustus Saint-Gaudens bronze bas-relief has received most of the publicity, possibly the most critical aspect of the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial restoration project remains invisible to visitors. As stated at the beginning of the project, a visual and seismic analysis conducted of the Memorial in 2014, identified serious concerns about the deteriorating brick foundation and stability of the Memorial in the event of an earthquake The original project engineer Robert Silman proposed the installation of a new stainless-steel frame between the bronze and the marble, designed to stabilize the entire monument. The externally invisible frame extends up from the plaza level to reduce movement in an earthquake or strong winds. The conservation team discovered that the Milford Pink Granite stones at the bottom of the monument had shifted because of corrosion and the expansion of the iron anchors used in the original construction. The project scope was expanded to include the removal and resetting of the pink granite stone, ensuring the Tennessee Pink Marble units would be in perfect alignment when they returned. Overall, repairs to the marble pieces were relatively minor. The conservation team made the decision not to repair every individual chip as these losses were consistent with the age of the monument.
The restoration of the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial is now 90% complete. Perhaps the most essential – and least visible – portion of the project has reached a critical point. The dramatic return of the bronze bas-relief was well documented last month, but the actual foundation of the monument is at the heart of the restoration efforts. The (stone) eagles have landed! The remaining units of Tennessee marble, waiting to be positioned, will complete the stone surround. The stainless-steel frame that was fabricated to stabilize the Memorial, in case of any future seismic activity, has been secured to the back of the bronze and the new concrete foundation on which it sits. After the remaining pieces of marble are positioned around this new frame, the project will move into its final phase. There is much more left to do, including the reinstallation of the marble seating units, the brick pavers on the plaza, and the finish pointing of all mortar joints.
Today the bronze bas-relief was positioned on its new structural concrete plinth so the reassembly of the remaining Tennessee marble surround can be put into place. The transportation protection will be removed over the next few days but the bronze will remain protected for the duration of the project except at times the bronze conservator is working on the bas-reliefs final touch-ups.
At the Shaw 54th construction site, the rebuild continues under a temperature-controlled tented condition. The heated tent around the site was added to support winter work and required special field and scheduling coordination. The bronze bas-relief is undergoing the last of the conservation process at Skylight Studios. Once complete, the bronze will be crated for travel and stored until its return to the Boston Common. Recently, the new concrete plinth was poured and the Tennessee marble balustrade units were reset. Many more carefully sequenced steps are needed before the bronze returns and the McKim design once again merges with the Saint-Gaudens bronze. The final construction steps are sensitive to weather conditions, but a new construction schedule is being reviewed now with an eye toward a spring completion date. Look for an updated completion schedule to be announced soon.
With winter approaching, the interpretive signage surrounding the restoration site has been temporarily moved inside and will be reinstalled in the spring.
Conservators at Skylight Studios in Woburn continue their efforts restoring the bronze bas relief, and the stone conservators in Lenox, MA are working on the conservation of the granite and marble that surround the Memorial. We expect the project to last into the spring of 2021.
The bronze bas relief is currently being conserved at Skylight Studios in Woburn. Read the Boston Globe feature.
The hoisting of the bronze bas-relief dramatically took place. The bronze was lifted off its base and brought safely down to rest on Beacon Street Mall before being placed on a flatbed truck for the successful transport to Woburn early Tuesday, August 18, 2020. View photos of the removal of the Memorial for restoration.
The steel support structure, or “shark cage” has been completed around the memorial. Next up, wood support structures will be built around the “cage” that will limit the movement of the bronze during transportation to the conservator’s studio in Woburn, MA.
Removal of the stone surround at the Shaw 54th Memorial continues. The blue tape indicates the granite units that are recommended to be removed and reset. Everything will be restored offsite and returned in the fall.
The construction company is removing the coping stones, the pieces of marble that form the top of the Memorial. They will be crated and taken to the conservation facility.
The plaza balustrade sections of the Memorial are being removed and placed into wooden crates for transport to the conservation facility.
900 feet of interpretive signage is being installed along the construction fencing, revealing the story of the Civil War, the 54th Regiment, and the Memorial that commemorates it. Installation of the interpretive signage – a museum without walls for all to engage with and enjoy – will be completed by week’s end and remain in place through the completion of the restoration process.
Shoring of the monument, stone removal preparation (including mortar joint cutting and stone cleaning method mockups) will continue for the next several weeks, led by Louis C. Allegrone Construction with support from design consultant Silman Structural Engineers. Starting in July, the bronze and stone will be removed from the plaza level up and taken offsite for conservation.
We are excited to partner with EarthCam to provide a photo time-lapse of the restoration process. This time-lapse provides two views of the restoration of the Memorial on Boston Common. Visit the following webpage to explore the time-lapse video of the restoration: Shaw 54th Memorial Time Lapse.
We’re excited to partner with Hoverlay to create an Augmented Reality experience, which brings the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, Boston’s most iconic work of public art, right into your living room.
This Augmented Reality experience is available to anyone at home, using your phone, on the Hoverlay app. Search for the Shaw54MemorialAtHome channel or use this direct link to the Shaw 54th Memorial AR experience on your mobile device.
Private funds built the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, which was given to the City of Boston on May 31, 1897. By the late 20th century, after decades of neglect, the Memorial was in extremely poor condition, a victim of corrosion and vandalism. In 1981, the Friends of the Public Garden convened the Committee to Save the Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial and led a campaign to raise over $200,000 for the monument’s restoration and to establish an endowment for its care. The Friends has been caring for it ever since.
In 2015, while working on the Memorial, stone conservators inform the Friends that the monument’s brick core has become deteriorated from water penetration over time, making it vulnerable to seismic events. An engineering study is conducted, leading to a $2.8 project to reconstruct and stabilize the Memorial. The National Park Service joins the Friends and City of Boston in the work, successfully securing 50% of the funding through the national Helium Fund and becomes the lead partner – a requirement for use of Helium Act funds. The City and the Friends provide the other 50%, supported by a generous grant from the Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust.