Many communities across Pennsylvania have prominent memorials to honor their local veterans. Centre County is no exception displaying their memorial proudly in front of the Centre County Courthouse in downtown Bellefonte.
A prominent feature of the memorial is the center statue of Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin (1815-1894), Pennsylvania’s fifteenth governor serving from 1861 to 1867. Governor Curtin served as the United States Ambassador to Russia under Presidential Ulysses S. Grant and finished his public service as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1881-1887). Curtin is well remembered for Pennsylvania’s support of the war effort from the organization of Camp Curtin, the first military camp for training militia to the establishment of the National Cemetery on the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg.
The monument, dedicated on June 8, 1906, was designed by Van Amringe Granite Company of Boston Massachusetts and includes 20 bronze panels inscribed with the names of 3,800 Centre County veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Occupation.
In the early twentieth century, commemoration was a common occurrence across the United States and Van Amringe Granite Company constructed many granite monuments at Civil War battle grounds. Eighty-seven Van Amringe-designed monuments are extant at Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Adams County as well as the monument for the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, at Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Centre County officials began the conservation project of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the Spring of 2017. Securing a Keystone Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission allowed them to address some of the alarming deterioration on the granite elements of the monument. An in-depth conditions assessment identified areas of significant mortar loss, delamination and cracks throughout the monument.
The conservation project was divided into two phases with Phase 1 focusing on evaluation, cleaning and consolidation of the deteriorated stone. Conservator Luis Alberto Romero-Henao with the NOLA Art Factory traveled from New Orleans to oversee the project. Blisters and spalls were removed using the gentlest process to restore structural integrity and to reduce future deterioration. Phase 2 focused on the removal and inspection of the plaques, inspection and treatment of concealed surfaces for corrosion of the plaques and additional stone deterioration, stain removal, and re-lettering of lost detail.
The stone was cleaned and repointed, coatings applied on the plaques, reinstallation of plaques and final consolidation applications performed. During the entire conservation process, the granite memorial remained in place so the community could watch the conservation progress.
The finished product is amazing.
Although significant treatments were necessary to restore the Centre County Soldiers and Sailors Monument and Curtin Memorial, the project also concentrated on establishing ongoing preventative maintenance strategies and conservation plans to ensure that the memorial will stand sentry for another 113 years.
Fittingly, the Memorial was rededicated at Centre County’s Veterans Day celebration this past November.
Congratulations to the Centre County Commissioners for the completion of a worthy preservation project that honors their community’s veterans. The PHMC was pleased to be a partner to such a special feature in downtown Bellefonte.