Article: Westfield Evening News 2003

Conservation work planned for city’s historic monuments

By Chuck Dufault

Westfield- Organizers are racing against time and the elements in order to save and preserve two of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. However, fund-raising efforts started about a year ago to refurbish the General William Shepard Soldier’s Memorial which stand on the city green, have been slowed by the downturn in the economy, fundraising official said, and more money is needed to make sure the monuments survive for generations to come.

Jacqueline M. Sears, Westfield Memorial Conservation Fund organizer, said only about $1, 300 has been collected through donations over the past year. Pricing estimates given last year for repair and preservation work needed for both statues averaged from $10, 000 and $15, 000, which included repairs to the base of the soldier’s statue, as some of the names of Westfield Civil War veterans have eroded away, and the addition of protective coating to both structures.

“It’s a tough time right now,” Sears said. “Donations are down because of the economy and the war.” Sears said a new addition to the campaign has been unveiled which will hopefully bring in much-needed funding. A professional-quality print of the General Shepard monument is being sold to help defray the costs of the much-needed work. The prints are $20 each and are available at Connors store on Elm Street and the park and Recreation Department offices at 4 Holcomb Street.

“All the money collected will go straight to the fund,” she said. Helping to create the prints was Westfield resident Alan Rising, who was a direct descendant of Shepard. Before he passed away recently Rising provided the actual printing of the photo through his city printing business, Sears said, and printed flyers last year when the initial fund-raising campaign began.

Also assisting in the project are the city’s eighth grade students, who have been asked to write an essay based on the question, “In light of world events today, what is the importance to us of previous military veterans and heroes-citizens soldiers from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the present.”

High school students are being asked to draw the monuments, and once completed, the essays and drawings will be displayed at the Westfield Athenaeum. Prints of the monuments will be given the winners of the art and writing contest and the top choices will be a part of the unveiling ceremonies on rededication day.

Both statues are falling victim to decades of exposure to the elements of New England. The monuments are developing black spots, which signify progressed corrosion. Once cleaned, they will remain green with a layer of patina, which will protect them from the weather. The Shepard statue’s sword attachment will also be repaired, and the Civil War memorial’s bayonet and steel clamps, which are eating away at the statue, will be removed and replaced.

The Civil War memorial, the older of the two statues, was erected on May 31, 1871. Created from New Hampshire granite, the statue was funded mostly from a fair held the previous year, which at the time was the largest to be held in New England since the end of the war.

The Shepard Memorial was dedicated on September 3, 1919, during the city’s 250th celebration. Shepard served in the Continental forces, often with George Washington, which won our nation’s independence in the Revolutionary War.

“I feel the people of Westfield will come together for this, because I think the statues are important to them,” Sears said. “They’re a standing history lesson for all of us.”

“This is not something we want to put on the back burner,” said Ann Marie Heiser, director of the Westfield Park and Recreation Department. “These are important memorial to the city.”

The Park and Recreation Department is involved in the maintenance of these statues as well as other city memorials.

Anyone wishing to make a donation for the restoration work can send a check payable to the Westfield Memorial Preservation Fund, c/o the Westfield Parks and Recreation Dept. 4 Holcomb St. Westfield, MA 01085.