Behind the Scenes: Winter Park Work

These days our parks are quiet, often covered with a blanket of snow, the trees dormant and flowers having long disappeared…is the staff on vacation?  Not at all! The winter months are full of activity.  Friends Project Manager Bob Mulcahy, Collections Care Manager Sarah Hutt, and consulting arborist and soil scientist Normand Helie are hard at work planning for the year to come, and overseeing winter tree work.

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Norm and Bob diving deep into the tree inventory, checking and rechecking!

Sarah and Bob evaluate every piece of sculpture throughout the year, planning out the annual cycle of care and cleaning.  Together they prepare the budget, receive proposals from conservators, ready contracts for the proposed work, and notify Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Boston Arts Commission and Boston Landmarks Commission about upcoming annual maintenance.  Once the contracts are signed and paperwork filed, Bob and Sarah will work with the conservator contractors to schedule when the Women’s Memorial, among many, will get the TLC they need.

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Spa Days for Ladies and Gentlemen on Commonwealth Avenue Mall

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Spas are popular destinations where ladies and gentlemen visit to seek care for their outer layers. What happens when the epidermis in need of care belongs to a lady or gentleman made of bronze? That’s a question for Sarah Hutt, Collections Care Manager for the Friends of the Public Garden, who designs and implements spa regiments for bronze figures on a regular basis.  The Friends cares for more than 40 pieces of sculpture and memorials on Boston Common, in the Public Garden, and on Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

Recently, on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Boston Women’s Memorial ladies; Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and Lucy Stone; and the statues of Leif Eriksson and John Glover were cleaned as part of the Friends ongoing maintenance program. The figures of the Women’s Memorial were washed and waxed.  On the Glover and Eriksson statues, “the bronze is protected with a coating of Incralac, a shellac-type coating used for bronze, which is then covered with layers of wax,” according to Hutt.

If cleanings and treatments are not done on a regular basis, the coatings break down and the bronze can be damaged when it is exposed to air and other elements.  “The bright green colors you sometimes see on statuary are the visible signs of oxidation, which means that piece is at risk of suffering serious damage. However, a little green tint is normal because there is a green colorant called a “patina” used to color the wax and give the statue a weathered look,” says Hutt.

It can cost a few hundred dollars to perform preventative maintenance on these works of arts, but once the damage passes a certain point, it could cost thousands to get it back in good condition.  “Fortunately our proactive cleaning program has stabilized the collection and is saving the bronze works for generations to come,” adds Hutt.

Momumental Homecoming for Soldiers and Sailors on Boston Common

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A monumental milestone recently took place on Boston Common courtesy of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.  Cranes facilitated the re-install of four larger-than-life pieces of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The four pieces represent Army, Navy, history, and peace.  They were  were removed 10 years ago for repair and were returned to their perch on Boston Common on May 29.  Onlookers watched as they arrived by truck from Daedalus studio in Watertown where the restoration work was performed.

Designed by architect/sculptor Martin Milmore, the neoclassical Soldiers and Sailors Monument, on top of Flagstaff Hill, is a Civil War memorial in the form of a victory column. At its dedication in 1877, Generals McClellan and Hooker were among those attending, along with two Confederate officers. From colonial to modern times, the hill has been a favorite sledding place for children.

During the winter, several members of the Friends visited the sculptures at the Watertown studio to observe the work.

Restoration work will continue at Soldiers and Sailors into summer, including the replacement of pieces to four plaques at the base of the monument, as well as cleaning.