The Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial, Boston, MA ~ Where Time Marches On

Written by: Nikki Alvin-Smith

The preservation of The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, located at the North end of Boston Commons in Boston, MA, has been a top priority on both a local and national level, due to its significance as the first monument to celebrate the involvement of the first federal black African American regiment from a Northern State in the Civil War.

Time marches on and through the years this iconic monument has been well preserved through the hard work of many who shared the passion of the 2020-2021 team revealed here, to preserve the integrity of 

 this special heritage artwork. The recent restoration project was completed for a cost of $2.8 million, and addressed the critical need for restoration and stabilization of the bronze sculpture together with the marble, stone and steelwork that encompasses and supports its presence.

EChem Consultants was proud to be a part of the collaborative effort of a highly professional group tasked with the restoration and conservation of this American treasure, utilizing the most modern techniques available to help ensure it will be enjoyed for generations to come.

The EChem Consultants portion of the project was certainly not a glamorous endeavor. For the ‘all female team, crawling about in small spaces with minimal available oxygen and dripping water to complete the examination of the archaic construction, comes with the territory. Unwanted companionship of bald tailed squirrels a.k.a. rats notwithstanding, the salty wet environment is not for the claustrophobic engineer or the faint of heart.

 2021 team revealed here, to preserve the integrity of this special heritage artwork. The recent restoration projectwas completed for a cost of $2.8 million, and addressed the critical need for restoration and stabilization of the bronze sculpture together with the marble, stone and steelwork that encompasses and supports its presence.

It’s true that Crevello’s ‘hands-on’ leadership style is present in every project the company completes.

An engaging video presentation hosted by APTNE on June 17th, 2021, Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial | Friends of the Public Garden offers a great insight into the history of the monument. Presented by Robert Mulcahy, Director of The Parks Commission at The Public Gardens, a driving force and principal administrator in the 2020 restoration project that detailed an interesting timeline of The Shaw Memorial. Well worth a look (and incidentally its review even counts as an AIA credit for the students of architecture).

The restoration project was complex. It necessarily required an immense brigade of talent of its own to ensure the restoration was completed successfully with minimal likelihood of damage to the irreplaceable sculpture.

Everything from the worrisome crane lift of the bronze itself over the trees and onto a waiting truck to transport it to Skyview Studios, Woburn, MA for restoration by the renowned Barbara Magnum (Sculptor and Arts Decorative Services) and her team, to the careful deconstruction of the masonry work and provision of a cleverly hidden new stainless steel support structure to allay damage from seismic influence in the future, required the utmost precision and professionalism.

Additionally charitable fundraising, fund acquisition and administration of those funds had to be efficiently undertaken and required liaison between 4 major parties, The National Parks Association, The Friends of the Public Gardens, The City of Boston and the Museum of African American History.

Factor in the administration, oversight and daily working relationships between conservators on the relief bronze, the masonry and construction, transport, security and structural engineers such as Ben Rosenberg, a 15-year veteran at the renowned Silman  plus corrosion experts Crevello at EChem Consultants, and it is clear there are many moving parts to the care and compassion that this stationary 10,000 lb plus bronze monument evokes from everyone on the project.

Each team studied and reported on their specialist aspect of the preservation and conservation effort and all their suggestions were taken on board by the 4 administrative funding parties. This foresight facilitated a complete restoration and an exceptional final result. Here, in no particular order, are the key team players:

EChem Consultant’s Gina Crevello, headed up her own all female team to undertake the machinations of possibly the least glamorous part of the project, the assessment and restoration analysis of the concrete and original structural steel and beam arch structure supporting the monument and plaza.  The assessment work took place underground in a crawl space that was at maximum 3 foot deep x 2 foot wide, reducing to 1 foot deep at one end.

EChem Consultants’ contribution focused on the corrosion assessment of the embedded steel frame at the Shaw Memorial, Boston, MA.  Their 2015 / 2016 report, detailed the corrosion behavior, deterioration mechanisms, durability and the results of an impressed current cathodic protection {ICCP} system trial. { add link to details on ICCP from your website } On all historic structures, a trial is carefully undertaken to ensure that this method of electrochemical repair will authentically provide both the necessary safeguards for future preservation of the support system as well as do no damage to the existing historic building materials.

“ The condition of the brick arch floor slab system, a typical design that was a common architectural and engineering method used at the time, was in need of some attention. In this type of construction typology, brick arches span structural steel beams, which comprise the slab’s structural system.  Above this, an early, lightly reinforced concrete topping slab, sand bed and pavers finished the plaza deck.   The waterproofing methods employed in the past had failed, and as a consequence, significant water infiltration into the crawl space from the slab had occurred.  Since this is a pedestrian zone, the use of deicing salts are employed in the harsh winters, leading to high levels of salts within the slab.

The embedded portions of the steel beams had limited oxygen availability due to the highly saturated slab and thus were in reasonable condition. The the exposed areas showed significant corrosion scale and damage to the interior brick masonry was being to occur. There was some displacement of the bricks and mortar and stalactites hung from the steel beams. Water inevitably finds it way to ground.

The steel framing needed to be treated and repainted if it was going to achieve the desired design life of the repair. The inclusion of the ICCP system would protect the steel from corrosion, from the salt contaminated bricks,” said Crevello.

EChem Consultants worked with the design team to oversee the ICCP work.  Allegrone was the General Contractor and construction team who completed the necessary masonry repairs, steel painting and construction components required. The ICCP system was installed by specialist corrosion contractor, Duricorr.

While work was busy going on at multiple locations including in the studio on the bronze relief, the Vermont facility where the stonework was being cleaned and repaired in a seven stage refinement process, and a myriad of other masonry repairs on site above and underground, the administrators of the project were very keen that the temporary absence of the actual monument itself should not go unexplained.

Showcasing much foresight, the provision of a storybook style ‘storyboard’ display was posted on the perimeter fence of the site, so that visitors could engage with the content and learn about the heritage of the monument alongside the sincere efforts that were being completed in the mission to protect it for future generations to enjoy. “It was a very clever idea and many folks stopped by to read it,” said Crevello.

“The work on the project began just before the Covid pandemic hit. The funds were available and project tasks awarded in late 2019. EChem has worked on many such projects with the revered Silman. I am personally indebted to its  for his loyalty and confidence bringing us in on such projects. Sadly Bob passed away just a few years ago before he had a chance to see the fruition of his labors on this project. I think he would be extremely pleased with the outcome. I am sure he would be thrilled with the job that one of his successor’s Ben Rosenberg has completed. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Ben and the entire team on this project and everyone has done a brilliant job throughout, even working outside through the harsh Boston winter weather.”

Appropriately the unveiling of the Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial in May 2021, fell on the anniversary of Bob Silman’s birthday.

 

As a result of the persistence, forward thinking and ardent collaboration of many like minded souls, The Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial is a national treasure that will likely withstand seismic activity, thwart water damage and remain a shining beacon of American diversity and unity for many years to come. Rather aptly placed at the top of Beacon Street.

About Echem Consultants:

Echem Consultants LLC is a material science consultancy whose primary focus is understanding material durability of the built environment. Through our Life 52® assessment approach [Laboratory, Inspection, Field Services, Engineered Design], we assist Architects, Engineers, and structure owners with long-term durability planning and predictive service life modeling for critical infrastructure 52 weeks a year. 

An additional advantage to employment of EChem Consultants is its ownership status as a certified women-owned business (WBE) and disadvantaged business (DBE) enterprise, thus fulfilling minority requirements for local, state, and federal contracts which have M/WBE or DBE set asides. Echem provides niche expertise in complex problem solving for critical infrastructure, landmark buildings, and new construction.

For more information, please contact Echem’s marketing department at 845-215-4370.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
British/American Nikki Alvin-Smithi s a seasoned Content Writer with a background in international commerce. Her works have been published worldwide across many genres including construction, investment, international freight forwarding, real estate, travel, the equestrian and pet industry and number in the thousands. Through her media enterprise company Horse in a Kilt Media Inc. Nikki collaborates with a variety of clientele to address their writing and PR needs, from Mom and Pop operators to Fortune 500 companies, from B-list movie/TV celebrities to Olympic athletes. Services include production of creative assets such as ghostwritten books, feature articles, blogs, vlogs, column writing, scriptwriting, speechwriting to copy for Executive Summaries, press releases, event coverage, brand building and marketing strategy.Additionally Nikki Alvin-Smith is an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician. Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard.