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The Daily Plant : Thursday, June 23, 2011

Honor Restored To Prospect Park War Memorial Bronzes

Historic Greenpoint Foundry Joins Forces with Parks’ Citywide Monuments Conservation Program and Prospect Park Alliance

Bedi Makky, a historic family-run foundry in Greenpoint, Brooklyn has joined forces with the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program to restore two badly damaged bronze honor rolls from the Prospect Park War Memorial, in storage for several decades. This week the bronzes made their triumphal return to the park, after extensive repairs.

The impressive and poignant war memorial is located at Prospect Park’s historic lakeside landscape, presently undergoing a $70 million renovation (completion expected winter 2012-2013) managed by the Prospect Park Alliance. The memorial honors the numerous citizens of Brooklyn who sacrificed their lives during World War I, and was sponsored in 1921 by Red Hook shipbuilder William Todd. A competition held in 1919 yielded designs by 100 artists from whom the team of architect Arthur D. Pickering and sculptor Augustus Lukeman was chosen. Their winning design consists of a 35-foot wide Milford pink granite exedra with a central bronze sculptural group depicting a wounded soldier and a veiled “Angel of Death.” The dedication ceremony was attended by 35,000 people, including 89 American Legion posts and 35 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Henry Augustus Lukeman studied with well-known American sculptors Launt Thompson and Daniel Chester French as well as at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His commissions in New York City included the Straus Memorial (1915) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which honors Isador and Ida Straus who perished on the Titanic, several figures on the exterior of the Brooklyn Museum (1909), and the figure of Manu on the Appellate Court House (1899) near Madison Square Park. After completing the Prospect Park Memorial, Lukeman worked on the large scale mountainside reliefs for Stone Mountain in Georgia, which were originally started by Gutzon Borglum. During his lifetime, Lukeman held the position of Secretary of the National Sculpture Society and was affiliated with the National Academy of Design and the Architectural League.

Also adorning the memorial are six elegantly curved honor rolls listing the names of the deceased servicemen, and the object of this week’s efforts. These were cast by the historic Roman Bronze Works and were at the time described as the largest such honor rolls ever cast in the United States. The list of 2,800 names display great craftsmanship and artistry; the number of those lost from the borough of Brooklyn remarkably exceeds the number of New Yorkers lost in the attacks of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The Citywide Monuments Conservation Program (CMCP), a public-private partnership is overseeing restoration of the monument with support from the Prospect Park Alliance. Two of the six honor rolls, severely vandalized and long stored, have been carefully straightened through traditional mallet and compression methods to restore their original curvature. This painstaking work was performed at Bedi Makky Foundry before delivery to Prospect Park this week.

Located since the 1930s at 227 India Street, a stone’s throw from the Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Plant in the industrial section of Greenpoint, Bedi Makky employs traditional methods of bronze casting and restoration. While modest in size, the foundry has produced several notable works by leading artists such as Tom Otterness and Chaim Gross. Father and son, Steve (a Hungarian immigrant) and Bill Makky assumed ownership of the firm in 1970; Steve worked at its predecessor Bedi Rassy beginning in 1960. Among the firm most notable castings were the Iwo Jima Memorial (1954), East Coast Memorial eagle in Battery Park (dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963), Manhattan’s Charging Bull (1989), The Family at Bleecker Street Sitting Area (1992), and a 56-foot bronze 9-11 Memorial relief installed in 2006 at Engine Company #10, the local fire house at Greenwich and Liberty Streets, adjacent to Ground Zero.

This week CMCP conservators John Saunders and Christine Djuric and several graduate level apprentices in the Monuments Program are resetting the honor rolls in the monument, as well as removing surface corrosion and residual graffiti before refinishing and recoating with protective wax to reestablish their original luster.
The conservation team will also be conserving the bronze sculptures, and repairing and repointing stone masonry. In the coming year the surrounding landscape will take shape, including a new and improved ice rink as the massive renovation managed by the Prospect Park Alliance proceeds.

This monument and many others throughout New York City will receive care this summer by the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program, a public-private partnership now in its 15th season. CMCP provides advanced students in objects conservation, historic preservation and fine arts with hands-on training using the nation’s leading collection of public art. Major support for this project is provided by the Prospect Park Alliance; other major summer program sponsors include the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Donna Karan and the American Museum of Natural History.

Submitted by Jonathan Kuhn, Director, Art & Antiquities


“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

Oscar Wilde
(1854 – 1900)

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