The 10-foot tall bronze statue of George Washington in the center of the West Wisconsin Avenue boulevard across from the Milwaukee Public Library will be removed on July 11 and brought to a studio in Illinois, where it will undergo months of restoration work.
The statue, made by sculptor Richard Henry Park, was given to the city in 1885 by prominent local philanthropist Elizabeth Plankinton, daughter of meat packing industry mogul John Plankinton.
It is considered Milwaukee’s first public monument.
Years of accumulating dirt and corrosion will be removed from the statue by a restoration organization called The Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park, Illinois.
“One of the problems that we have with many monuments in Milwaukee is in the past — we don’t know exactly when: 40 years ago, 50 years ago, 60 years ago — there was a practice to reinforce or stabilize them with concrete,” said Claude Krawczyk, president of the Westown Association Board of Directors. “But that was the wrong thing to do. With our weather and the freeze and thaw cycles, it isn’t good for the structure at all. There’s many cracks in it and it needs to be repaired. The other issue is just (its age) and the effects of acid and the effects of the oxidation process. Over time it degrades the metal. Even though this is bronze, which is built to withstand significant temperature differences, the statue is 130 years old. The effects of time and the oxidation of the monument need to be taken care of.”
The work is expected to cost around $100,000. The statue is expected to be restored and reinstalled sometime in the Spring of 2017.
The Westown Association is leading fundraising efforts to pay for the restoration project and to date has raised around $50,000 from individual and corporate donors, including a $10,000 grant from the City of Milwaukee Arts Board.