An award-winning preservation company has been hired to restore Bethlehem's Civil War Monument, though the city is still soliciting contributions to pay for the work.
City Council recently voted unanimously to authorize the administration to enter into a contract with Conservation Solutions Inc., Washington, D.C., to make the needed repairs to the statue honoring Capt. Jonathan K. Taylor. The cost of repairs is estimated at $20,000.
The 129-year-old statue was removed from Bethlehem's Rose Garden a year ago because it had begun to lean backward and city Parks Department officials feared that it might topple.
Conservation Solutions has a world of experience in preservation, having won awards for its work in restoring the D.C. War Memorial in Washington; Cleopatra's Needle, an Egyptian obelisk located in New York's Central Park; and the exterior of the New York Public Library.
Capt. Taylor was a Bethlehem resident who fought with Company C of the 129th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, in the Civil War. He was gravely wounded when he was shot through the lung during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia on Dec. 13, 1862.
He died more than three months later on March 28, 1863, and was buried in God's Acre, the Central Moravian Church cemetery on West Market Street between Main and North New streets.
Cast of 99.3 percent zinc by the Monumental Bronze Co. of Bridgeport, Conn., the statue was shipped in pieces by train to Bethlehem before its dedication on Oct. 11, 1887. The ceremony was preceded by one of the largest parades in the city's history, including more than 3,000 Civil War veterans, numerous regional civic societies, 18 brass bands and then Pennsylvania Gov. James A. Beaver.
Initially erected on West Market Street, next to the cemetery where Capt. Taylor was buried, the statue was moved to the Rose Garden in 1967 when city officials became concerned about vehicular traffic downtown.
In 1994, when the city did a $40,000 facelift of the monument, it was given an appraised value of $250,000.
As it turns out, the statue was one of more than 100 Civil War era monuments cast from the same mold. The statues were commonly known as "The American Soldier." But the base of these monuments are prone to failure under the weight of the soldiers atop.
Taylor's statue began to lean, prompting city officials to remove it from the Rose Garden last year.
The Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Pennsylvania, a local group that has done conservation work in Gettysburg and in more nearby places, contributed $2,000 to the project, but the city continues to solicit contributions.
Donations, which are tax deductible, can be sent to City of Bethlehem, Department of Parks & Public Property, 10 E. Church St., Bethlehem, PA 18018.
Daryl Nerl is a freelance writer.
Note: we are working with City officials and hope to announce plans to hold a rededication ceremony for the Monument in the Fall.