This presentation is part of the International Cemetery Preservation Summit, April 8-10, 2014 Niagara Falls, NY.

Returning From Oblivion: The Reemergence of a World War II Memorial Sundial by Minxie and James Fannin



The classical Doric marble column, surmounted by a bronze sundial, was commissioned by the Sylvania Electric Corp. of Salem, Massachusetts to honor their local employees who perished during World War II. This three and a half foot Vermont marble memorial, now nearing 70 years old, was situated on an expanse of lawn flanking the Sylvania building. It was “reverently dedicated” on May 26, 1946 and described in the 1946 Memorial Day issue of The Beam, the company newsletter, along with a good quality photograph of the monument.

From that auspicious beginning, the memorial suffered a series of unfortunate adventures, probably due, in part, to its relatively small size. Sylvania sold its building to Salem State University and it became their Bertolon School of Business. At some period, the memorial was inadvertently damaged by heavy equipment, removed, and stored in various locations. The surviving elements, minus the sundial, finally came to rest in a warehouse at the University.

Led by Salem State University, a group consisting of the University, the Salem City Council, the Salem Veteran’s Council and Thomas Mackey & Sons, Inc., resolved to conserve the memorial and engaged Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants to undertake the project from the damaged elements in the warehouse to reinstallation of the restored monument on the grounds of the University, culminating in a public rededication.

Fannin•Lehner Preservation Consultants formed a team of a contractor specializing in historic masonry, a marble fabrication specialist and Thomas Mackey & Sons, Inc., a local contractor, to help with the heavy lifting and foundation work. The tasks were research and documentation, formation of a conservation plan, securing a replacement sundial, transport to the marble fabrication specialist’s workshop where existing stable elements would be 2 cleaned and conserved and missing elements replicated, periodic site visits to the fabrication shop, transport of the elements of the completed memorial back from the shop and re-erection of the memorial on the Salem State University campus. Of the original six elements of the memorial only the shaft and the first and second bases were extant. In addition, four quarter round marble slabs that originally were set in the turf apart from the monument and served as stepping-stones for viewing the sundial survived. Missing elements were the echinus with its fillets, the abacus and the top plate (architrave) into which the sundial was set and the sundial itself.

The initial issue faced by the team was determining a location for the monument on the busy Salem State University Campus (done in conjunction with the Administration), as the original site was unusable. In addition, the survivability of existing elements had to be determined and sourcing appropriate marble from which to replicate replacement elements was required. As the existing elements had stood outside for many years, their coloration would be quite different from the replacement marble – should the new be treated to match the old? The “stepping-stones” were all broken with missing fragments on some – could they be joined together and reused or should these four elements be replaced? Fortunately, a period sundial, to replace the long missing one, was available from a member of the city/university group overseeing the project.

The proposed presentation will illustrate the process, which resulted in the restoration of the World War II memorial and discuss the steps taken to resolve the issues regarding the completed monument.

Speaker Bio

Minxie (Anne) Jensvold Fannin
Minxie is a Founding Principal, with Monique B. Lehner, of Fannin-Lehner Historic Preservation Consultants, established in 1984. She now serves the firm as Managing Principal. After gaining substantial experience in National Register and National Historic Landmark nominations, the firm identified historic burial grounds and cemeteries as important cultural landmarks in serious need of conservation.

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Minxie holds a Master of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master Science from Boston University, and did doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. She is a member of the Board of the Society of Architectural Historians, New England Chapter, the Board of the Boston Preservation Alliance, a member of the Collections Committee of the Bostonian Society, and immediate past Chair of the Massachusetts Senate Art Committee.

James C. Fannin, Jr.
James Fannin is a Senior Associate with Fannin•Lehner, Preservation Consultants. Since joining the firm, he has been actively involved in historic burial ground preservation planning, stone conservation and National Register of Historic Places nominations. Fannin holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a M.S. from Columbia University. His extensive experience in stone conservation has provided him with a detailed understanding of the properties of the stone used in memorials and the techniques used to create 17th, 18th and 19th century gravestones and monuments. Fannin serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and is past Secretary of the Board of Directors of The Association for Gravestone Studies.

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