The first phase of the Memorial Park restoration and renovation project was underway in November with cleaning of the park’s centerpiece, the statue Life.
The project was in the very capable hands of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, Inc., one of only three major companies in the United States that do this kind of work, according to Tom Podnar, senior conservator of sculpture with the Ohio-based company.
“There’s very few of us that work at this level,” said Podnar, who has done restoration work here in Jacksonville previously. “We worked on the Charles E. Bennett Federal Building in Jacksonville, cleaning a concrete mosaic by Albert Vrana.”
McKay Lodge responded to a Request for Proposal, which was vetted by CMS Group, who is managing the project under the direction of Pattie Houlihan and Jake Ingram, both past presidents of Memorial Park Association.
“We have the sole source contract for the GSA [U.S. General Services Administration], so we take care of the outdoor artwork for the GSA,” said Jim Gwinner, conservator of sculpture and public art with McKay Lodge. “We’re in all 50 states working for the federal government, so it’s not unusual for us to do this.”
The crew of four arrived in Jacksonville on Nov. 3 and began work the next day. The work on the reflecting pool includes cutting out the old mortar in the seams and joints of the concrete pool and re-mortaring; replacing conduit, and installing new electrical and plumbing. The bronze statue was cleaned with a dry ice blast process and then covered with a clear protective coating made specifically for outdoor bronze statues. The plaques on the pool were also refinished and two new rosettes installed.
Podnar anticipated finishing the project in December, weather permitting.