ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Despite the fact that its top three sections had shifted slightly askew from the marble section inscribed with the names of Athens' Civil War dead, the Confederate monument on East Broad Street in downtown Athens is "not in bad condition," according to Michael Trinkley, director of the Chicora Foundation, a nonprofit South Carolina-based historic and archaeological preservation organization.
Trinkley and Debi Hacker, the Chicora Foundation's laboratory supervisor, spent more than five hours with the monument on May 24, cleaning it from its granite base to the short marble spire at its top as they also reassembled and secured the top sections in the wake of local concerns about the slight shifting of the structure, attributed to vibration and other disturbances from years of traffic on East Broad Street.
The top three sections were removed from the monument by an Athens-Clarke County government facilities management crew some weeks ago after a passerby reported noticing a slight shift between the section of the monument engraved with the Confederate dead's names and a 5-foot marble section topped by a separate flowerlike capital and a separate short marble spire.
Trinkley and Hacker, with assistance from a county facilities management crew and private local crane operator Toby Hines, began their work at the base of the monument at about 9 a.m. on May 24. Trinkley and hacker used brushes and a special cleaning solution to remove biological materials that had discolored the structure over the years. According to Trinkley, the monument will, over the next few days, take on lighter colors as the cleaning solution does its work.
Shortly after 2 p.m., after spending a few minutes adjusting the topmost spire to stand straight, Trinkley and county facilities management staff member Richard Fraysher descended in their bucket cranes to mark completion of the May 24 work. As part of his contract with the county, Trinkley is providing the local government with a report outlining other work that might be needed to keep the monument in good repair.
Generally, though, with the exception of some cracks in the marble monument, it is in good shape, according to Trinkley.
After the work, the monument is also safer than it had been. In reassembling the monument, workers drilled single holes in the bottom marble section and the 5-foot section that sits atop it, and inserted a stainless steel dowel into the holes to secure the monument. Previously, the monument sections had been secured by four lead "seats," two of which had worked loose from the monument.
Until May 24, when the pieces were taken back to East Broad Street on a trailer, they had been stored at Athens-Clarke County's facilities management headquarters on Lexington Road.
The monument, built in 1871, was initially installed elsewhere in the downtown area in 1872.
It was moved to East Broad Street some decades ago.
The Athens monument, like numerous others around the South, was erected through the efforts of a local Ladies' Memorial Association.
The groups were assembled in the wake of the Civil War to honor the Confederate war dead. The Genealogy Trials website put the cost of the Athens monument at slightly less than $4,500.
In a 1956 article in The Georgia Historical Quarterly, the late University of Georgia historian E. Merton Coulter writes that the Athens monument "was probably the ninth in the South and the second in Georgia."
According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the Athens monument was among two dozen such structures erected in the state in the 19th century. Others are located in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Elberton, Macon and Savannah.
The Chicora Foundation has done other preservation work in Athens at Oconee Hill Cemetery and the Jackson Street Cemetery on the University of Georgia campus.
Information from: Athens Banner-Herald, http://www.onlineathens.com
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