The McKinley Monument, which commemorates the 25th president's tragic assassination at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, has long been marred by the effects of over a century of exposure to the elements.
Marble is missing or damaged. Mortar and joinery need replacing. Oxidation has caused yellowing.
But all of that is about to change.
The first complete restoration of the iconic monument – at a cost of $647,000 – began on Monday, with the temporary removal of the first slabs of marble.
The project is expected to be finished by Sept. 6, the 110th anniversary of the monument's dedication, and the 116th anniversary of President William McKinley's shooting by Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-Am Expo in Buffalo.
"Many people who come here from across the region, nationally and internationally come to look at this monument," said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, whose office in City Hall looks out on Niagara Square, where the monument is located. "It commemorated a terrible time in the history of the United States, but it is a beautiful structure, one that should be preserved, maintained and protected."
"I was looking forward to moving this project forward, and am very pleased to announce today it is getting started," Brown said.
The Buffalo Arts Commission, the Department of Public Works and Flynn Battaglia Architects determined what needed to be done.
Peter Flynn, principal of Flynn Battaglia, said they researched the history of the monument, assessed its current condition, analyzed conservation alternatives and learned the marble came from a stone quarry in Swanton, Vt., where replacement materials will now come from if necessary.
All of the monument's paving stones and stairs will be removed and reset. Stone poles will be cleaned and repaired, with two replaced. The fountains, obelisk and animals will be cleaned; leaky fountain pools will be relined; and the 96-foot-high obelisk will be repointed in places.
Morris Masonry Restoration, which has worked on other local stone preservation projects, will do the work.
"There's a whole system involved in photographing and cataloging the pavers after they're removed, in order to return them to the same exact place and keep them historically correct," said Jeff Morris, the company's owner.
"Everything will look clean and nice when we're done, though some patina may still be visible," Morris said.
He said his company takes pride in repairing what may be Buffalo's most significant public works of art.
"This is artwork, well beyond a building repair," Morris said. "My guys get very excited about it. This is the stuff you can talk about when people say what do you do."
The monument was designed by architects Carrère and Hastings, who had led the design of the Pan-American Exposition and also designed the New York City Public Library Building.
The animal sculptures by Alexander Phimister Proctor include four sleeping lions – each 12 feet long and weighing 12 tons – and turtle and dolphin fountain spouts.
Other public art projects underway in Buffalo include restoration of the Lincoln statue on the portico of the Buffalo History Museum and the Sándor Petőfi bust in Riverside Park.
Food Truck Thursdays will be relocated from Niagara Square for the next three months while the McKinley Monument work continues.
The food trucks will be on West Genesee Street between Statler City and the Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building.