From the ground, it's hard to tell that a giant has been watching over Rossville Boulevard.
"His foot's got to be 20 inches long," said Carrie Toepper, marveling at the size of the Union soldier atop the Iowa Monument, a 72-foot-tall granite Civil War marker on Rossville Boulevard just east of downtown Rossville.
Toepper belongs to a six-person crew giving makeovers to Civil War monuments on the Chickamauga Battlefield and Missionary Ridge in time for the 150th anniversary of the battles for Chattanooga, which comes next year.
Armed with tools of the trade such as powdered walnut shells, used as a gentler alternative to sand when sandblasting bronze plaques, the crew hauled its gear here from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Md. They're staying at an extended-stay hotel near Hamilton Place mall.
On Tuesday, the crew tackled two stone towers: the Iowa Monument and the 2nd Minnesota Monument on Missionary Ridge.
Work included cleaning a layer of green moss off the head of the giant Iowa soldier, removing wasp nests from his pants and power-washing away years of soot from passing cars and trucks.
To fill joints between stones, the crew mixed mortar with sand chosen to match the original shade, which varies from monument to monument. The Minnesota Monument uses lead mortar, which is so durable none of it needed replacing.
This year, eight monuments will be cleaned and repaired.
"When this is done, 19 out of our 20 big-asset monuments will be redone," said Jim Szyjkowski, director of maintenance for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
"The last crown jewel [to get a makeover] will be the New York Peace Monument in Point Park, and I hope we'll be able to do it next year," Szyjkowski said.
The three-year total to repair and clean monuments in the military park comes to $1.04 million. Of that, $310,000 is federal stimulus money.
"This is the same crew that has been here for the last two or three years," Szyjkowski said.
Crew members travel around the country restoring National Park Service properties such as the Kalaupapa leper colony in Hawaii, Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island near Biloxi, Miss., and Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas near Key West, Fla.
The crew's previous Chattanooga work involved cleaning battle monuments at Orchard Knob, including a bronze statue of a soldier whose shoes don't match.
"The guy has two different shoes on. One has laces, the other one doesn't," Toepper said. In the heat of battle, "that's something that would have happened," she said.
Preservation crew members appreciate details they come across during cleanup.
"The flag even has the stars carved into it," crew member Dale Lupton said of the stars and stripes in the giant Iowa Monument soldier's hands.
Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...