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Doughboy Comes Home!

Danielle Ryan

(3/16/2016) As a small crowd of onlookers watched, Emmitsburg’s iconic Doughboy statue was placed back upon its pedestal on March 16, nearly nine months to the day after it was knocked down as a result of a freak automobile accident. The crowd in attendance watched in silence as tie down straps that held the statue securely to the bed of the truck were loosened, then let out a cheer when the  the slings that had lifted the statue were removed, and passing cars honked their horns in a show of approval.

Due to the nature of the statue and its location in the historic district, the town was forced to navigate a myriad of procedural issues before work could actually begin on repairs. But once approval was given, the repairs proceeded speedily.

Gary Casteel, a noted sculptor/monument maker from Gettysburg was selected to do the restoration of the Doughboy. Casteel noted that the damage to the statue was worse then it appeared. Due to the fragile nature of the construction of the statue, buckling had occurred that resulted in the statue having a decided left lean. Casteel strengthened as much of the buckling as he could, but to correcting 100% of the buckling would have required the complete dismantlement of the statue. Veterans however, agreed that the left lean that does remain is more accurate of the lean a real soldier would have in throwing a hand grenade with his right hand.

Casteel closed the seams that had opened and wielded and refinished them. Some of the plates had to be returned to the original shapes. A base plate was attached to the statue so it could be better secured to the new pedestal – replacing the pipe that had been embedded in the original pedestal that had served to keep the statue upright.

Casteel said the exterior of the statue needed a lot of attention. Sap dripping from overhanging limbs of the tree that shades the statue, and general pollution had accumulate to such a degree that the original luster of the bronze had long since disappeared. Casteel polished the statue until the original bronze luster was restored, and then applied a special wax to ensure the luster and shine would remain for years to come.

Casteel noted that while the damage to the old pedestal was light, the pedestal had so many fractures and fissions due to age that it crumbled when work was done on it. So not replacing it was not an option. A new limestone pedestal was quarried from the same quarry in Indiana as the original pedestal. The new pedestal comprised the bulk of the $40,000 cost of the repairs.

Work on the plaque which lists the names of the soldiers who had fought in the ‘Great War” went quickly, said Casteel. The letters in the names damaged as a result of the accident were fixed, and like the statue, the plaque was given a good cleaning and waxing. Casteel noted that he was happy that the town had opted to keep the original plaque, “it’s a part of history,” Casteel said, “and when we can, we should always strive to preserve original history.” Had the town opted to replace the plaque, the cost of the repairs would have increased by $10,000 said Casteel.

One interesting historical side note on the plaque was noted, as it was being re-installed. The heads of small screws could be seen on the back of the plaque. The screws were used to attach stars next to the names of the nine soldiers that were killed during the war, indicating that the inclusion of stars was an afterthought after the plaque had been finished.

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