May 27, 2008 in City

Olympia WWI memorial to be refurbished

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – First came the X-rays, electron microscope scans, ground-penetrating radar and an extensive document search.

Now preparations are being made for renovations to “Winged Victory,” a memorial to Washington state residents who died in World War I.

The Legislature approved more than $167,000 this year to restore the 70-year-old landmark on the state Capitol campus. The statue features larger-than-life bronze figures of a sailor, marine, soldier and nurse on a granite base beneath the protection of Nike, the goddess of victory.

“It’s sort of the guide to all the other buildings, and it’s a meeting place,” tour guide Cindy Coopersmith said. “At New York, you meet at the Plaza. In Olympia, you might meet at the steps of the Legislative Building or you might meet at Winged Victory.”

From its dedication on May 30, 1938, records show no work on the monument until 1979, when it was given a light sandblasting that removed the patina, a greenish coating that develops on bronze and helps protect it from deterioration.

After that, the record shows dark streaks on the statue became black.

In 1989, Washington’s centennial year, state workers applied a golden colored mix of acrylic and brass powder.

The coating “did protect the bronze surface, which had become vulnerable because of the ‘79 stripping, but now that gold coating has worn thin and we have an accelerated corrosion occurring,” said Marygrace Jennings, cultural resources manager for the Department of General Administration.

In many places the bronze shows through the coating and streaks of corrosion run down the figures. The goddess’s left elbow looks as if she fell and cut it.

To determine how to do a better job this time required a $40,000 study by Krazan and Associates of Bothell.

Last year, company experts scraped samples from the statue, drilled test holes and tried various cleaners on parts of the metal and stone. X-rays, scanning electron microscopes and ground-penetrating radar were deployed.

The company also dug up any records that could be found, including the handwritten notes of sculptor Alonzo Victor Lewis and drawings sent to then-Lands Commissioner Albert Martin. The final report, issued early this year, led to legislative approval of funding.

Starting in July, crews will strip the acrylic coating, remove the underlying corrosion and apply a new patina to try to match the original appearance, although the original color remains somewhat of a mystery.

“We know that Alonzo Lewis did some kind of chemical patination to the surface, and we know from the historical records that it was a ‘rich, warm brown,’ ” Jennings said.

Those three words, she said, will be the guide to selecting and applying a hue as the statue is hidden from view by scaffolding and shrouds for as long as nine weeks before the wraps come off in the fall.

“It’s definitely going to be a change from what we’ve been used to for the last decade or more. It’s going to make people sit up and take notice,” Jennings said. “I hope people will embrace the restored look.

“We never considered repainting it gold. To do so would not be in accordance with working with a great piece of art.”

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