MARQUETTE - Last weekend, experts were in town briefly to clean the city's historic Father Marquette statue and to prepare the antique for a long-awaited restoration.
Hired by the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee, Venus Bronze Works - a Detroit-based company that works in sculpture preservation - spent Saturday creating molds of the reliefs at the base of the statue.
In the 115 years since the statue was dedicated to the city, pieces have been broken from the reliefs. The experts will craft replacement parts for the reliefs and will return in the spring to attach them to the original reliefs.
Workers from Detroit’s Venus Bronze Works climb on scaffolding around the city’s Father Marquette statue on Saturday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Scott Slocum of Venus Bronze Works makes a mold of the reliefs at the base of the statue as part of a restoration project. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Father Jacques Marquette was a Jesuit missionary and explorer who was born in France in 1637. He served as a missionary in the region and was believed to have camped near modern day Marquette while mapping Lake Superior in 1669. The statue - moved to its current location in July 1913 - was carved in Florence, Italy by Gaetano Trentanove. Similar Father Marquette statues sit on Mackinac Island and in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.
The MBRC is hoping to raise a total of $100,000 to fund the restoration and cleaning of the statue, as well as improvements to the park where the statue rests, immediately north of the Lake Superior Community Partnership building on Front Street.
MBRC President Emily Lewis said the group hopes to light the statue, landscape the park, make the space ADA-compliant and open it up to the rest of the city.
"We would like to connect the little park to Founders Landing and open it up more to the city," she said. "We want to really reach the whole community."
Thr group hopes that Venus Brozne Works can have the reliefs completed by spring, allowing the MBRC to schedule an unveiling of the restored statue for the summer of 2013, marking the 100th anniversary since the statue was moved to its current location.
While in town Saturday, the Venus Bronze Works employees also cleaned spray paint from the statue, which was vandalized recently.
The Marquette City Police said they had received information that the red paint had been noticed on the statue in early October.
The MBRC is offering a reward of at least $500 for information leading to the arrest of the person or group of people responsible for the damage.
If anyone would like to add to the reward fund, they can call Lewis at 226-9618 or send contributions to P.O. Box 334, Marquette, MI 49855. Contributions for the restoration project can be sent to the same address.
Anyone with information regarding the vandalism is asked to call the Marquette City Police at 228-0400.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.