Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Victory Flys Home

Victory was returned to the Circle on Labor Day weekend and placed in the Northwest Quadrant.
Ready for her close-up, a lot of visitors took the only opportunity they might have to see her
on the ground for another 100-150 years. 
I journeyed downtown early last Tuesday morning, the day after Labor Day, to see Victory being restored to her perch atop the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, but high winds and rain caused the work to be delayed. The manager said that the lift itself would not take long, but the statue and the steel frame supporting her had only about four inches of clearance allowing her to be dropped down into the workers' scaffolding and onto the armature and bolts that would secure her. The crane operator needed for the wind speed to be 20 miles per hour or less in order to safely return the statue to her home. However, every time I'd looked at the anemometer on the top of the crane's boom, it was spinning at a good clip and never abated long enough to allow the task to be done. 

Workmen in a cherry-picker crane preparing to install braided nylon
rope to allow the crane to lift Victory's steel cage, without damaging the statue.
The lift had been re-scheduled for 8 a.m. this past Monday and, as I turned the corner at Meridian to head for the Circle it was about 10 minutes before 8, I figured I had time to make it. I looked up towards the Monument and  -- there she was! -- drawn up by the crane to the very tip of its boom. Victory had begun her return to her home thirty minutes ahead of schedule and was poised above the scaffolding in preparation for placement on her base. While I was disappointed, I knew that someone would surely post video on YouTube I could see later. They did and you can view it below.

Workmen work to guide Victory into place as the crane
slowly lowers the statue into the scaffolding
I did stay to take pictures of my own and watched as Victory was gradually lowered into place. That process took about an hour as the workmen carefully aligned her with the sixteen bolts that had been installed to attach her to the base. That done, they will further secure her with over 100 additional bolts to the armature/column protruding from the Monument. 

When the statue originally was created 118 years ago, the technology was not available to install her in one piece. Instead, workmen used horse-drawn pulleys to haul Victory in over forty pieces to the top of the Monument. Welding processes were just in their infancy and the technology was not available for use, particularly for bronze. Consequently, the pieces were assembled on top of the Monument using a series of metal pins which were hammered into holes in the statue, hooked over to grip from inside to secure the elements. Over time, the holes became corroded and allowed water to seep inside the statue.

The problem was found in 2009 during other restoration work on the Monument and Victory was removed in April 2011 to a nearby airplane hanger where she was cleaned, most of the holes filled and sealed. She was then reassembled and welded together. Her torch has been gilded with 23-carat gold and, it is agreed, she is beautiful.

Now that she has been returned, portions of her exterior will be replaced and welded in place. She will then be smoothed, patinaed and polished with wax. The scaffolding will be removed and Victory, her make-over complete, should resume vigil over the city in a couple weeks, her golden torch shining in the sun.


dive said...

A great post, Speedway. I'm glad you got to see at least some of the lifting. Victory certainly looks magnificent with the early morning sunlight glinting off her golden torch. I love that you photographed the people looking up and watching. So nice to see citizens taking notice of their surroundings.
The video is pretty cool (though the soundtrack sounds like my air conditioner); I watched it while I ate breakfast this morning. The bit when "She's almost there" is pretty nerve-wracking; the crane driver must have had his buttocks clenched pretty tight those last few moments.
I can't wait to see her with all the scaffold down, waxed and gleaming and watching over you again.

Speedway said...

Thank you, Dive.

This was the only video that really showed the lift. I am sorry it was so dark, but I think it was taken from the area of the crane, so it was backlit.

We joked that this was the day the newbie earned his crane operating lifting accuracy badge - "Ya gotta do it some time Mike, it may as well be today." - but the guy driving was definitely middle-aged.