Restoration of the Memorial to Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment

Barbara Mangum


The Col. Robert Gould Shaw Memorial is one of America’s most famous historic sites, memorializing Col Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. This regiment was among the first military units to be raised of all black soldiers, who volunteered to fight for the Union during the Civil War. The Memorial consists of a bronze relief of the figure of Col. Shaw on horseback in parade with the men of the 54th Massachusetts marching to war on Beacon Street across from the Massachusetts Capital building.
The relief was sculpted by Augustus Saint Gaudens between the years of 1884 and 1897 and is in all senses of the word, a masterpiece.  The well-known firm of McKim, Meade and White were the architects of the pink Tennessee marble and granite memorial, that surrounds the relief. The deterioration of the brick foundation under the relief prompted the project of restoration of not only the memorial, but also the bronze relief between 2020 and 2021.
This was a highly collaborative and complex project. The owners of the monument were the Friends of the Public Garden, the National Park Service and the Museum of African American History in Boston. The project team specifying the work included the engineering company Silman, Ben Rosenberg as structural engineer and team leader, Barbara Mangum as metals conservator and Ivan Myjer as stone conservator.  Allegrone Inc. was the general contractor and undertook the masonry restoration.  Skylight Studios with principal Robert Shure conserved the bronze relief.  The project cost over $3m and included dismantling of the stone and brick structure, removal of the bronze relief, which weighed about 14,000 lbs. to Shure’s offsite location for treatment and storage, rebuilding of the foundation, waterproofing, cathodic protection of the underground vault beneath the plaza, and restoration of the Memorial and plaza. The project took about 1.5 years to complete.
This presentation will briefly discuss the condition as we know it 50 years ago from photographs, then focus on the treatment that occurred in 2020-2021.  Future considerations have prompted the extensive water-proofing of the Memorial.

2022 | Los Angeles | Volume 29