Derecho Recovery: Conserving Statuary and Gates

December 28th, 2021

The August 10, 2020 derecho caused devastation across the Brucemore estate. Brucemore’s historic gates and outdoor statuary did not escape the wrath of the storm, but soon they will be restored to their former glory.

The historic gates at both Linden Drive and First Avenue are iconic pieces of the estate that have greeted visitors since their installation in 1928. Prior to the storm, they were already in need of preservation. A 2017 survey indicated that both sets had paint loss, corrosion, and were missing their bottom beams. The storm caused significant damage and expedited the need for immediate preservation. This included severe bends caused by falling limbs and flying debris. One of the gates at Linden Drive had to be de-installed in the direct aftermath to allow for access to the roadway. The First Avenue gates were also wrenched out from their piers and no longer aligned properly.

Brucemore Formal Garden Derecho Damage

Both sets of gates had extensive damage to the lamps atop the concrete piers. One of the lamps from the First Avenue gates was knocked off the top of the pier and broken into several parts. The other lamps lost various parts that will have to be recast to be replaced.

Two pieces from Brucemore’s collection of outdoor statuary will also require conservation following the storm. Dancing Children, a bronze cast pedestal crafted by Russian American sculptor Bashka Paeff in 1916, normally rests near the formal garden. A tree felled by the storm landed on its flat top and caused a large dent and numerous scratches. Like the gates, the piece needed some conservation work prior to the storm, but the damage it suffered necessitated more immediate measures. The fawn statue that rests at the south end of the pond suffered abrasions and paint loss. The piece is a replica of the c. 1925 bronze fawn casting located near the formal garden.

All of the pieces identified were examined by Brucemore staff in the aftermath of the storm, and then by KCI Conservation in early 2021. After finding an art handler capable of handling the complexities of the collection, their removal from the estate occurred in late November 2021. Methods & Materials, a Chicago-based fine art installation and rigging company, worked alongside Brucemore staff and KCI Conservation to carefully plan and execute the removal.

Methods & Materials carefully wrapped and packed the lamps and their loose parts. The fawn, which had been excavated by Brucemore staff in the fall, and Dancing Children were also wrapped and placed on a pallet for shipping. The most complex part of the deinstallation process was the removal of the gates. Using a telehandler, the remaining gate at Linden Drive and the two gates at First Avenue were lifted off of their hinges and removed. The sidelights at First Avenue had to be carefully cut from the piers, leaving enough material for them to be rewelded upon their return. Lastly, all gates were carefully loaded onto a flatbed trailer.

All of the materials were sent to the conservators in Minneapolis, where the restoration work will occur. It is expected to be by completed in the spring with reinstallation slated when the warmer weather returns. This work will be funded by insurance, however, there will be gap in funding to cover the estimates of damage to the estate that exceed more than $3 million.

Help with recovery efforts by donating to the Preservation Fund today.