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Central Park Conservancy Blog

Maintaining Central Park’s Statues and Monuments

Celebrate winter in Central Park! Even though Ice Festival has been cancelled due to impending extreme temperatures and high winds, it’s still a great season to enjoy the Park’s statues and monuments.

A lot goes into keeping the Park’s statues looking their best. Central Park has more than 50 different bronze and stone pieces, requiring year-round preservation and maintenance work, as well as more intensive conservation projects such as refurbishing bronze coatings, cleaning stone masonry, and repointing mortar joints. Central Park Conservancy’s most recent big conservation project was the Obelisk, a single piece of stone weighing 220 tons. Created in Egypt around 1450 BC and installed in the Park in 1881, the Obelisk’s age and exposure to various climates and conditions contributed to a gradual degradation of its appearance. The project lasted three years, 2011 to 2014, and included extensive documentation of the monument, as well as repairing cracks, and laser cleaning the Obelisk’s fragile surface.

We also conserved one of the Park’s bronze monuments in 2013, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ William Tecumseh Sherman statue. This comprehensive project involved cleaning and conserving the bronze monument and then regilding it with 1,200 square feet of 23.75-karat, ultrathin gold leaf. To adhere the gold, the bronze statue was primed then prepared with a tacky coating. To protect the gold, a wax coating was applied over it. The monument’s granite base was also cleaned and repaired, its drainage was modified, and pigeon deterrents were installed.

Each summer, the Conservancy employs a team of five Monuments Conservation Technician interns for ten weeks to assist us with preserving the collection. The interns are mostly current graduate students in Historic Preservation, Objects Conservation, or other related fields. They are trained and supervised by the Conservancy’s in-house conservators.

In the photo, check out General Sherman getting shined up by conservators and gleaming once again in Grand Army Plaza.