Century-old soldiers memorial in Amherst gets facelift

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This is what the Cumberland County Soldiers Memorial Monument in Amherst looked like before restoration began this week. (Tom McCoag/Town of Amherst - image credit)
This is what the Cumberland County Soldiers Memorial Monument in Amherst looked like before restoration began this week. (Tom McCoag/Town of Amherst - image credit)

The weather was perfect in Amherst this week for a pair of art conservators from Ottawa brought in to fix up the soldiers memorial monument in downtown Amherst.

The cenotaph was unveiled in 1921 to honour 336 Cumberland County soldiers who died in the First World War.

"In 2019, our town council wanted to add names of Korean war veterans and when they started looking at it they found out it had badly deteriorated," said Sheila Christie, the town's deputy mayor. "That's when we decided to do a complete restoration on the monument."

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

The project will cost $40,000 with half covered by a federal program.

A crew from Heritage Grade architectural restoration service was brought in to do the job.

Ed Bowkett and Daniela Kolback, who are husband and wife, did all the work on the statue and plaques. Matt McCartney, a mason from Kingston, Ont., did all the repointing and cleaning of the granite blocks.

Bowkett, who lives in Ottawa but is originally from Halifax, said many problems with war memorials are discovered just prior to Remembrance Day, leading to some quick fixes. "We have seen all kinds of things done to monuments over the years," he said.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

Bowkett said many of those repairs are not done properly.

The monument in Amherst was hit by a car about 20 years ago. When the monument was dismantled earlier this week, the damage was worse than expected.

Statue, plaques stripped down and refinished

The sculpture was blasted using dry ice to remove all debris and a patina coating.

Torches were then used to apply a new patina to give it a richer and darker look, much like it had a century ago.

Decades of being exposed to the elements saw the monument get greener each year.

The names of seventy-nine soldiers from the area who died in Second World War were added in the 1940s. Another seven names of soldiers who died in the Korean War were recently added.

Bowkett said he had many conversations this week with locals who stopped by to have a word.

"Because it's a relatively small town, a lot of people have relatives whose names are actually on the plaques," said Bowkett.

"That doesn't happen when we work on projects in Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto because the cities are too big, but here direct relatives have stopped by to say hi so that was kind of neat."

The monument, designed by an Italian sculptor, features a soldier dressed in the uniform of the 85th Highlanders.

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