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Repairs set to begin on battlefied monument

April 18, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

SHARPSBURG - Tourists and history buffs returning to Antietam National Battlefield in the coming months likely will find something they have not seen on the grounds before - scaffolding and fences surrounding one of its largest structures.

Repairs to the Maryland State Monument are slated to begin this week, said Jane Custer, chief of the Division of Cultural Resources for Antietam National Battlefield. The monument has been closed since 2003 because the iron frame inside the dome is rotting in many areas, which has also caused visible damage to parts of its dome.

The intent of the project is that people "won't notice much of a difference" between the refurbished monument and what could be seen prior to the deterioration that became obvious in 1997, Custer said.


Custer said efforts to garner funding began immediately, though federal grant money, which supplemented private donations and state grants, was not awarded for the $300,000 project until last year.

Custer said the monument, which is 35 feet tall and was constructed in 1899, had been one of the most popular attractions at the battlefield until it was closed in 2003 for safety reasons. Prior to being closed, people could walk into the middle of the monument, under the dome and statue, and read informational bronze plaques inside of it.

Custer said R.L. Bryan Inc., based near Baltimore, will begin taking measurements and removing damaged pieces of iron this week. Custer said the company will then begin building the stainless steel frame at another site based on those measurements.

Alan Hill, president of the company, said the new frame will be brought to the site in pieces, assembled and lowered into place by a crane. He said the original pieces of copper, dome and statue will then be attached.

Hill said several of the people working on the monument have at least 16 years of experience on similar projects.

Hill, a disabled veteran, said it is important to him to have the project completed before the Sept. 17 battle anniversary.

"There's a lot of men that died there. I thought it'd be important to get it done," Hill said. "There will be a lot of people up there that want to see that monument."

Custer said there could actually be some positives for the battlefield if the work is not completed by September. She said it would be an advertisement for the battlefield's constant need for donations.

"I don't think it hurts that the public realizes that all these structures need maintenance," she said.

While the monument is dismantled for the project, the bullet-damaged statue atop the dome will also be repaired, Custer said.

"I don't know who would take shots at 'Lady Peace,' but she's got three of them," Custer said.

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