To Do: Migrate

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


James Fannin: I’m going to have to use this for … I’m almost there. Good afternoon. I was going to say late, but we’re earlier because of the cancellation. We’re going to take you out of the cemeteries into another … Let’s get back over to … Into another area. We want to thank Jason and the National Park Service for this opportunity to present this talk and organizing this interesting conference. This is the item that We’re going to be discussing today. This is a Doric marble column surrounded by a bronze sundial. It was commissioned by the Sylvania Electric Corporation of Salem, Massachusetts. It honors eight fallen servicemen … Oop, this thing is tricky … Employees who perished during World War II.

The three-and-a-half foot marble memorial, now nearing seventy years old, was situated on expansive lawn flanking the Sylvania building. It was reportedly dedicated in May 26th of 1946. It was a well attended ceremony. It was described in the 1946 Memorial Day issue of The Beam, the company newsletter. This newsletter is the only known documentation of the original memorial. The Sylvania manufacturing facility was located on Loring Avenue in Salem, Massachusetts, and the sundial memorial stood on the lawn in front of the building’s main entrance. This building has been adaptably reused by Salem State University. The new owner has the Bertolon School of Business and predominantly flanks the entrance to the central campus. The book is making it move that’s the problem. So I’m gonna hold it up here.

Minxie Fannin: Okay.

Sun Dial before conservation treatments.

Sun Dial before conservation treatments.

James Fannin: The marble of the original memorial has been identified as coming from Proctor, Vermont, probably from the nearby West Rutland Quarry. It’s a very fine-grained marble, similar in appearance and composition to marble that’s quarried in the Lee, Massachusetts. It has curved marble steppingstones that surround the memorial. The design follows the classic Doric order starting at the bottom with a base, above this a flinth, and a fluted column, and almost all the way up there’s an area called the sinkage, which is a deep groove near the top, and above that is the neckage, and then the echinus, which includes a series of grooves representing a flowing band or a ribbon. Then there’s an abacus, and the plate on top which carries the bronze sundial.

From this auspicious beginning, the memorial suffered a series of unfortunate adventures, probably due in part to the fact that it was quite a small size. At some unclear period the memorial was inadvertently damaged by earth-moving equipment, and fell, which resulted in it being removed and stored in various locations, both indoor and outdoor. Finally the surviving lower three elements and damaged stepping stones came to rest in an on-campus warehouse at the University. All else, including the sundial, had disappeared, and this is where we caught up with the story. In 2010 the stars began to align for a reemergence of the memorial sundial.

Several key entities have resolved to rescue and conserve the memorial, and this group was led by Salem State University, the Salem City Council, the Salem Veterans Council, and a well-known local contractor. Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants was then engaged to undertake a project from the damaged elements … To take the project from the damaged elements to a … In the warehouse, to reinstallation of a restored monument on the grounds of the University, culminating in a public rededication. Fannin-Lehner has performed cemetery conservation in Salem burying grounds for many years.

Fannin-Lehner formed a team of a contractor specializing in historic masonry, a stone fabrication specialist who has worked extensively in historic stone and marbles structures, and the local contractor I’ve already mentioned, who would help with heavy lifting, the site work, and the foundation. Among the tasks were securing a replacement sundial and transport back and forth to the marble workshop. There, the plan was to clean and conserve the existing stable elements and replicate missing ones. Then the memorial had to be returned to the campus and installed. A detailed conservation plan was to be prepared for, and this is the cover of it.

Additional problems to solve at the time were, where was the memorial to be located, the method of installation, and the landscaping. A work schedule also had to be developed because of the scheduling of a

Sun Dial conserved and placed for the first time.

Sun Dial conserved and placed for the first time.

rededication at a convenient time for the University. As you’ve seen in the warehouse images, of the original seven elements only the memorial base, the plinth, the column, and four damaged stepping stones were extant. Missing elements were the echinus, the abacus, the plate at the top which held the sundial, and of course the sundial itself, which had disappeared long ago. The first major problem to be solved was to obtain an appropriate sundial sized to the proportions of the memorial.

As it turned out, the problem of the missing sundial was providentially solved. A Salem city councilor realized he had a bronze sundial and its nomen, that had been cast by his father during the Second World War and was stored … Had been stored in his home for many years. The sundial proved to be a perfect fit and it cheerily reads, as you can see, “I count none but sunny hours.” With that issue solved, we turned to another problem. Where was the monument to be set before it departed to the Tower Stone marble shop in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. The obvious possibility was, again, in front of the Bertolon building, but after discussion it was felt that, again, it was … The site was too vast for the small monument.

At that point somebody looked over at the building across the way, which is the Police Station, that flanks the other side of the entrance. After examining it, we felt that it was already landscaped, it was easily accessible and visible, and was quite secure since it sat right outside of the Police Station. This was the chosen site for the memorial. Finally, on March 2012 the memorial and the stepping stones resumed their journey for conservation, loaded on a pallet, and separated by pads, and rugs, and cardboard. It was transferred to the Historic Masonry contractor’s truck for the drive to the Tower Stone site in the Berkshires.

Minxie Fannin: The original mission of Tower Stone was the recreation of a missing abacus, echinus, and top plate, as well as conserving the memorial base, the plinth, and the column. However, two more preservation issues immediately surfaced. It was known that the marble plinth between the memorial base and the column had a crack, a rather large crack, and Vern Tower of Tower Stone became increasingly concerned that even repaired it would be not strong enough to bear the considerable weight of the reassembled memorial. The decision was made to replicate it.

Cutting the new marble stepping stones.

Cutting the new marble stepping stones.

The second challenge was with the stepping stones, which were broken, some with missing fragments, but all these could be repaired. The larger issue was whether to repair two-inch thick stepping stones, were too compromised to be walked and stood on, as they were originally made too thin. Our team felt that the stepping stones were meant to invite viewers and it was decided to exactly replicate them, in a sturdier form, three-inches thick to ensure their long-term use and survival. Our April 2012 visit to Tower Stone found Vern Tower working on the recreation of the new stepping stones.

Tower was observed cutting the stepping stones with a large, diamond-bladed circular saw, then doing the final shaping using air-powered grinders. It was at this visit the most difficult preservation decision was made. It concerned the vast difference in color between the conserved original elements and newly created ones. After extensive discussion, it was decided to apply a finish on all recreated elements of the memorial to simply approximate that of the column and the memorial base, both of which were heavily weathered. Here is the new echinus, treated with Lipton’s Tea.

Meanwhile, at a metal shop, two stainless steel threaded rods were fabricated to replace the rusted iron rod. The completed elements of the sundial and the stepping stones were transported back to Salem State for temporary storage until the foundation was finished and the sundial could be reassembled. It was now time to proceed with the foundation, an eighteen-inch diamond diameter footed sonni tube, commonly known as a mushroom. This was finally accomplished. An earlier attempt had run into an un-mapped concrete drainage system.

The pallet, with the elements of the sundial was brought to the site, but a new glitch, the lower stainless steel threaded rod was found to be five inches short of the necessary length, although the rod was a specified length, had been planned too low in the concrete. Welding a second rod to the top of the existing rod solved this problem. Two weeks later, the direction of the sundial proceeded once more. The welded pin, now the proper length, and the elements of the sundial were carefully assembled on the foundation. The large memorial base was set on the foundation first and leveled, utilizing lead shims. A bonding agent, PL3H lock type, a polyurethane, was used to bond the large pin in the foundation to the large and small bases in the column of the sundial.


Placing the column onto the base.

Placing the column onto the base.

The large base and column were lifted into place using nylon straps attached to the bucket of the skid loader. All the remaining elements were set by hand. The echinus, abacus, and top plate were leveled using plastic setting cushions. These elements were set using the second stainless-steel threaded pin, placed in the top of the column and extending into the bottom of the top plate. A horizontal sundial … But now, time for the sundial at last. A horizontal sundial must point towards true north to tell the time correctly. In Salem, Massachusetts, the magnetic variation between magnetic north and true north is slightly over fifteen degrees west.

The pinhole locations were marked for drilling and the sundial was set with the nomen pointing true north. The excavation around the foundation was back-filled, and a heavy mulch bed was placed on the fill to the desired grade. The marble step steppingstones were installed on a deep bed of pea stone. The World World II Memorial Sundial was dedicated on September 17th, 2012, in a ceremony well attended by political notables, Salem State University, Salem Veterans Council, and other invited guests. The President of the University, Patricia Maguire Meservey, spoke movingly on the importance of remembering those who died for our freedom, evoking the images of our fallen men.

Making the occasion even more memorable, members of some of the families of the eight veterans also attended the dedication, including this elderly veteran. But wait. There’s more. In October 2013, last fall, a year later, we were stunned to receive a telephone call from the Chief of Staff to the President of the University. Due to the unexpected relocation of a planned dormitory, the sundial had to be removed. Oops, that’s right, I forgot all about that, that’s why I want you to come up. Okay. Do you want me to hold … I’ll hold it on the other side.

James Fannin: Just get on this side. As you might expect, we had substantial discussion on how we might remove it with the original team, who were also thunderstruck to find that this permanent memorial lasted thirteen months. We all agreed that we should do an investigation of the foundation, to see if maybe we could just take the whole thing out of the ground and move it to a new location, and in order to do so we had to jackhammer it because it was now November and it had been extremely cold. The ground, in order to create an opening through which we could then use a vacuum unit to suck the subsoil out of the area at the base of the sundial to see what exactly we had down there and whether our plan would work.

Unfortunately, we found that … The finding was that the sonni tube itself was not connected to the foundation as originally supposed to be, so that there was no way to pick it up and just having the sonni tube, that we had this difficult thing to try to get back into a foundation in some way. After a good deal of discussion it was decided we’d disassemble it and put it in storage. This was done in February because there was a very aggressive schedule for this dormitory, which had been supposedly started earlier and then they moved it to this site to put it up.

Removing the sun dial with heat gun and wooden wedges.

Removing the sun dial with heat gun and wooden wedges.

Here we are, we had to clear quite a bit of snow from the site. Here’s the memorial, and the first we did is use a heat gun to try to soften up the polyurethane, being very careful not to cause great thermal shock to the stone, and this took some time, to try to loosen elements. Then we applied a sort of rude goldberg rig of two-by-fours and bar clamps against the side of the upper portion of the memorial, and lifted carefully, turned some, and to our great delight, after lifting judiciously, we actually lifted off both the echinus, the abacus, the top plate, the pin, and the sundial came up as a unit.

Next it was on to the base, where we clamped the unit on the plinth. Again, we softened it up and tried to open up tried to open up the adhesive a bit. Fortunately it was cooperative and turned, and the column came free and was lifted off by the skid loader, and set on pallets. We brush-cleaned everything that we took up the best we could do in these temperatures, and everything was wrapped in poly and in bubble wrap, taped, and placed on pallets once again.

There were two pallets and we had a forklift that moved the pallets to a warehouse, so if you remember the first pictures we saw the disassembled memorial, we’re in a warehouse, on pallets, and here we are again, back on pallets in a warehouse. When the stars align again and a suitable location can be identified, we truly believe that the World War II Memorial Sundial will return from oblivion one more time. Thank you.



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.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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