Visitors to Oakland Cemetery are often surprised to learn the scale of restoration work conducted by Historic Oakland Foundation’s Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team. While the bulk of our work consists of resetting small headstones and medium-sized markers, we occasionally get the opportunity to work on our largest monuments. As you can imagine, these require more time, larger equipment, and more funding. Sometimes, these projects get their own fundraising campaigns or, as in the case of the Female Statuary Project, they are sponsored by a single organization. Part of the mission of the Atlanta Town Committee Chapter of the Colonial Dames is to promote the historic preservation of sites and objects. Partnering with HOF, the Atlanta Town Committee Chapter of the Colonial Dames sponsored the restoration of Oakland Cemetery’s 27 female statues.
While most figures only required cleaning, the Mary Brown, Jane Stewart, Watson Family, and Sarah Silverman statues were leaning severely and required more significant intervention. Regardless of size, correcting a monument’s lean requires disassembling and moving the marker to determine the underlying issue. Because of the size of the monuments and their proximity to other markers and landscaping, we decided to use a small two-foot-wide crane to safely accomplish the re-setting work.
Without the support of NSCD, working on these monuments would have required moving other markers or damaging existing landscaping.
The 295 SpyderCrane uses a track system to move around, allowing it to easily travel down our narrow pathways and up onto the lots. Once in place, four outriggers provide the crane with enough support to lift up to 6,450 pounds. With the crane level and secure, we used thick nylon lifting straps and guide ropes to safely lift and move each piece. Next, we removed the failing footers, which consisted of large pieces of granite mortared together. These footers failed because they were made using older, weaker mortars and varying sized stones and because of soil erosion. Once removed, we used a dirt compactor to firm up the soil and then poured a new concrete footer reinforced with metal lathe. Once the concrete hardened, we used the crane to reset each piece, using strips of lead to ensure there is no wobble. Finally, we backfilled with topsoil and cleaned the monuments.
Working with partners like the Atlanta Town Committee Chapter of the Colonial Dames allows Historic Oakland Foundation to complete restoration projects efficiently. Without the support of Atlanta Town Committee Chapter of the Colonial Dames, working on these monuments would have required moving other markers or damaging existing landscaping. On a personal note, I’d like to thank the Atlanta Town Committee Chapter of the Colonial Dames for allowing me to work on this project. During the week that we use the crane, the PRO Team had the opportunity to get amazing photos of the statues in the air, gain experience on more extensive equipment, and teach the public about our work, hopefully inspiring young people to pursue careers in preservation.