A group that includes Illinois senators Richard J. Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R) is urging Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar and the National Park Service to restore the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial that stands at the foot of Capitol Hill.
In the sculpture, the Civil War general credited with saving the Union sits astride a horse on top of a 40-foot pedestal; below him, two horizontal pieces show soldiers in battlefield conditions with charging horses, careening cannons and screaming men.The long-neglected bronze memorial, which has anchored the east end of the National Mall since 1922, has discolored over time and the deteriorated metal has taken on a blue-green hue. The discoloration of the bronze figures has spread to the three white marble pedestals, which look as though a careless house painter has let buckets of paint spill on them.
A set of letters from Durbin and Kirk, along with Frank J. Williams, president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association; Frank Scaturro, president of the Grant Memorial Association ; James A. Balcer, alderman of the City Council of Chicago; and Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, was sent to Salazar’s office Monday.
“People look to our national monuments as a sign of America’s strength. We must not let the Ulysses S. Grant memorial fall into further disrepair,” Dirk wrote.
Bronze monuments need a periodic gentle cleaning and several applications of wax to keep them looking good. If they are closely monitored, all that is needed is removal of old wax as it wears away every few years followed by a new application. Dennis Montagna, chief of the Monument Research and Preservation program for the NPS, believes the last time the Grant memorial was cleaned and waxed was probably in the early 1990s.
"The National Park Service is aware of the need to spruce up the Grant memorial and has every intention of doing that;" Park Service spokesman Bill Line said. "I don't know when we will get to the Grant memorial but be assured we have not abandoned it." He added that there was no set date for any restoration efforts and that the department’s priority was repairing the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument.
Durbin, in his letter, said he was “committed to preserving the legacy of Ulysses S. Grant” and “will be happy to see his memorial restored to a condition appropriate to his accomplishments.” Topinka, who organized the effort, asked that the memorial be “restored to its original brilliance.”
Grant and his family lived in Galena, Ill. prior to and following the war and his home there is preserved.