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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Restoration of Fort Griffin's Centennial Monument

In May of this year, the Centennial Monument at Fort Griffin was cleaned, restored and reassembled to its original 1936 Centennial configuration (see 1936 image at left). Originally comprised of three bronze bas-reliefs and massive blocks of pink granite from Marble Falls, Texas, the reliefs had been separated from their base by Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1969–70 and attached to a sloped sandstone wall near the entrance of Fort Griffin visitor's center. The granite blocks were dumped in a field below the visitor’s center, where they remained for 40 years.

The granite base of the monument was designed by architects Page & Sutherland and the reliefs were created by French sculptors Raoul Josset and Jose Martin. The bronze panels are rendered in the team’s signature Art Deco style and depict pioneers, buffalo hunters and surveyors who opened West Texas to Anglo-American settlement. Josset and Martin came to Texas as members of the artistic team responsible for creating many of the primary sculptures and building facades of Dallas's Fair Park for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.

Originally situated in the middle of the historic parade ground, the monument now graces the western edge of the fort and its grand silhouette greets visitors as they arrive at the site.

Here are a few highlights of the two-week restoration process:

From 1969–2009, the bronze panels were attached to a sandstone wall at Fort Griffin's entrance.

The restoration specialist removed the bronze plaques from the sandstone wall.

The conservator removed areas of loose corrosion from the plaques using bronze brushes and bronze wool.

A coat of butcher’s wax was applied to help unify the appearance of the plaques and to provide temporary protection against the elements; the wax will wear off in approximately six months.

Each granite block was hauled from the field below the visitor's center by an all-terrain forklift.

The restoration specialist cleaned, gently scrubbed and rinsed all granite blocks with a stone cleaning solution.

The forklift helped to set the stones in place.

With restoration and reassembly complete, the monument is finished!

Written by Laura DeNormandie-Bass, Chief Curator for the THC's State Historic Sites

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