Robert Alden Marshall isn’t a magician, but he’s good at making things disappear.
Vamoose, as in the decades of bird guano and rat droppings that have accumulated on one of Galveston’s most recognizable sites, the Texas Heroes Monument at 25th Street and Broadway. The 74-feet-high monument was designed by Italian sculpture Louis Armateis and funded by Henry Rosenberg, who died in 1893.
Marshall said his company, R. Alden Marshall & Associates, is up to the challenge of restoring the island icon. He is accompanied by his wife, Sheila Grimes, and his crew of about a dozen workers on the island.
Here’s what he said:
“We’re cleaning out the pigeon funk and old dead pigeons. Once we get the pigeon crap out, then we’re going to better see the condition. Then we’re going to access it and put the color back to the way it was, using chemicals to remove patina (film). Then we’re going to put a protective coating on it so that it lasts.”
The Texas Heroes Monument was erected in 1900 and dedicated on April 21, just five months before the Great Galveston Hurricane roared ashore on Sept. 8. The hurricane was the deadliest in U.S. history, claiming 8,000 lives and devastating the island.
Marshall has had plenty of experience bringing history back to life since launching his La Grange-based company in 1999. He holds degrees in material physics and art conservation, and has completed his training in Paris and at the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C.
His preservation work includes the Gonzales Heroes Monument; Texas Hall of State in Dallas; the Milam State Courthouse; and the Civil War Monument and Spanish American War Memorial in Pennsylvania, to name a few.
In Galveston, Marshall also has restored the “Dignified Resignation” sculpture, erected in 1912 by Armateis, depicting a Confederate soldier after defeat.
“I feel great doing this kind of work all over the country,” Marshall said. “This is what I do.”
Atop the Texas Heroes Monument, the outstretched hand of Victory is pointing either to the San Jacinto Battleground or to Galveston’s Red Light District, depending on who’s talking.
“At the top,” Marshall said, “we’re going to analyze old repairs to make sure there are no stress fractures so that it can withstand another gale or two.”
The $108,000 project is expected to be completed in late January. That’s good news to Charles Kenworthy, facilities director for the City of Galveston.
Here’s what he said:
“Once finished, we are certain that the citizens of Galveston will be pleased with the final product. This monument is deserving of great care and preservation.”