By Jay Ferguson, Louisville Water Museum Specialist
The ten statues on the base of the Louisville Water Tower were taken down in October 2020 to be restored. You may be wondering what has happened to them since. Now that they’re nearing the mid-point of their restoration, let’s take a look.
After they arrived in the Washington, D.C. office of EverGreene Architectural Arts, conservators did a condition assessment. The first thing they noticed was that the Indian Hunter had lost his right arm at the elbow during shipment. However, this is a weak spot on the statue and was not a cause for great concern.
Upon closer examination, the greater issues were wear and tear through weathering and the forces of gravity on the more-than-120-year-old statues. Cracks were found at many of the weak points and on some of the bases because of the weight of the zinc statues.
The conservators looked for work that was done on them during previous restorations and noted any replacement parts. Flora, recast out of aluminum in 1991, was found to be in the best condition. Of the original 1890s statues, Spring, Winter and Hebe were considered in good condition. The remaining six statues were determined to be in fair to poor condition.
When the assessment was completed, a restoration plan for each statue was created. The first step involved cleaning all of them with Simple Green Clean to remove years of accumulated dirt and grime.
Now, armatures (metal frameworks) are being built and will be installed to carry the statues’ weight. To better support the bases, new “L” brackets will be attached to the armatures to anchor the statues once they are reinstalled.
After the armatures are complete, the statues will be blasted to remove all coatings. This will be followed by repairs to the cracks and original welds. (The statues were originally cast in pieces and welded together.) Then comes priming, recoating and packing for shipment back to Louisville.
The work is projected to be completed within the next two months. The statues will return to Louisville Water with great fanfare sometime in 2023 after restoration work on the tower itself has been completed. Stay tuned.
Louisville Water Tower Park will be open for public tours from noon to 5 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 14. Entry tickets include a visit to the WaterWorks Museum, which offers a large archive of photos, films, and memorabilia.