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Friday, May 30 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Architecture Session) The Conservation of the Montgomery Monument, St. Paul's Chapel, New York City

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This paper would present the conservation of America’s first official monument, the Montgomery Monument, located in the east window of St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan. The monument was commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1776 to commemorate Major General Richard Montgomery who died in the Battle of Quebec during the Revolutionary War. Originally intended for display in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the monument was created in France by Jean-Jacques Caffieri (“sculptor of the king” to Louis XV), working under Benjamin Franklin’s direction. The monument was then shipped to America in several sealed crates where it remained for the first decade of its life during the final years of the war, until its installation in St. Paul’s Chapel in 1787.

The monument is marble and limestone in the baroque and rococo style seen in many monuments in Westminster Abbey, London. It consists of a fine-grained, white-veined gray marble lintel with brackets in the classical triglyph motif. A coarse-grained white marble plaque containing an inscription is mounted below the lintel. Upon the lintel sits a pink breccia column flanked on both sides by limestone decorative carvings. The carvings depict trophies symbolizing liberty, strength, chivalry, and martyrdom. Atop the column sits a limestone pedestal-footed funerary urn with acanthus leaf decorations. A flat truncated variegated marble obelisk serves as the backdrop.

This was the first comprehensive conservation project to be implemented on the monument and being over 200 years old and not properly maintained, was in extreme disrepair.

The project began with archival research of the monument and a design phase investigating its materials and support structure, and their conditions. The unique installation of the monument, placed within a large window frame, provided many challenges to the conservation planning phase. Consultation with an engineer who assessed the support of the monument through impulse radar, metal detection, and fiber-optic borescope, resulted in the decision to fully disassemble it to ensure a long-term repair. Conservators conducted in situ testing of cleaning materials and methods. The approach had to take into consideration the various conditions on the numerous materials extant within the monument.

Disassembly allowed for the development of distinctive methodologies for each of these stone varieties. The individual elements of the monument were conserved on site in a temporary workshop.

Archival research and discussions with historians proved critical to understanding the original display intent for the monument and guided the conservation of the stone and metal framework. The conservation implementation, in turn, informed the historic research with physical evidence that was found during disassembly to answer some of the questions about the original appearance of the monument, the materials used, and their authenticity.

This paper will present a visual and descriptive timeline of the conservation including the methodologies and ultimate strategies employed.

Friday May 30, 2014 11:30am - 12:00pm
Garden Room

Attendees (26)