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Deteriorating Civil War monument in Patchogue to get face-lift

Patchogue to restore a Civil War monument that

Officials in Patchogue on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, discuss an initiative to restore a Civil War monument that was erected in 1870 and has fallen into disrepair. Credit: Newsday / Deon Hampton

The statue of an armed uniformed soldier has gradually decayed, but efforts are underway to save a piece of history.

The Civil War monument on Baker Street in Patchogue Village is collapsing, and officials are doing what they can to restore the historic keepsake.

The monument, depicting a soldier gripping a long rifle, was erected in 1870 and is etched with 180 names representing former residents who risked their lives during the conflict.

Village officials last week approved a measure making the structure the first addition to its long-standing historic registry.

Village Trustee Susan Brinkman, who spearheaded the initiative in November, said the designation was deserved. “It’s an amazing piece of our history,” she said.

But while officials contend the monument is something to be proud of, the structure has fallen into disrepair over the years, likely due to the brittle material from which it’s made, experts say.

The base of the white, bronze zinc statue has begun cracking, and the soldier is leaning backward, currently held up with the help of a steel ladder.

Village officials said restoration costs are about $60,000, more than half of which has been raised through donations.

Civil War veteran Edwin Bailey of Patchogue created the sculpture, which was originally placed in front of what was then Patchogue High School at Academy Street and South Ocean Avenue, village officials said. It was relocated to the front of the American Legion Hall in the 1920s.

Patchogue-based Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a group of Civil War descendants who conduct research and re-enactments of the conflict, is raising money for repairs.

“The creation of this landmark status is instrumental in the fundraising efforts of our historic Civil War monument,” Thomas Badamo, a member of the group, wrote in a letter to village officials. “All around us history is being destroyed.”

“This monument, as well as our historic cemeteries, are in many cases the only link we have to that past,” he added.

Zinc sculptures weren’t made in the United States until the 1850s, but became popular for the remainder of the century, experts say.

They reflected cultural history during the 19th century in small towns and were customized to mirror battles of war, according to “Zinc Sculpture in America 1850-1950” by Carol A. Grissom of the Smithsonian Institution.

“While urban centers had sources of revenue enabling erection of expensive bronze monuments, small communities throughout the country could afford zinc statues purchased from trade catalogues and shipped by railroad,” wrote Grissom, one of the nation’s authorities on statues.

Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said the historic designation allows for officials to request state and federal grants to assist in restoring the monument and protects it from being removed or changed without permission.

“It’s been part of this community for over 130 years; it needs to be protected,” Pontieri said.

He added that many village streets such as Smith, Mott and Conklin are named after soldiers whose names are engraved on the statue.

“Their relatives are still here,” Pontieri said.

Those listed on the monument fought in New Orleans and Atlanta during the war, officials said.

For more information on the monument, call 631-569-1076.

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