"It’s a terrific monument," said Dr. Dennis Montagna, director of the National Park Service’s Monument Research and Preservation Program in Philadelphia. Monday morning, he inspected the south facing Union Civil War bronze statue located in the courthouse square.
"You can see the quality of it," he said. "There are no flaws. The artistic value is quite nice. The condition looks quite good.
"It has a good surface with no serious corrosion," Dr. Montagna said. He added the area is fortunate in that there was no heavy industry to cause corrosion.
The statue, a union soldier made up of bronze on granite, was made by Frederick C. Hibbard, a renowned artist of Civil War monuments during the early part of the twentieth century.
He made statues of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, as well as Jefferson Davis, former confederate president.
Dr. Montagna will issue a full report on the condition and maintenance of the statue. At this point, he is recommending a protective coating of wax with frequent upkeep and maintenance to prevent major problems.
He also said that many war statues were mass produced at the time, and Great Bend was fortunate to receive an individually sculpted statue.
Ten years ago, the statue received some upkeep and was waxed. But, "At some point," Dr. Montagna said, "the statue was painted black."
History surrounds the statue. "All union statues look to the south to guard the union," said Tracy Aris, volunteer at the historical museum and an acquaintance with the work of Dr. Montagna. "So many veterans came to Kansas because it was the west and they were seeking big opportunities. Memorial Day was a big event."
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was specifically for those who died in the Civil War. It was expanded after World War I to include all soldiers.