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Start Westward monument to be placed under shelter

Renderings courtesy of Marietta City Engineering A temporary canvas will be erected above the Start Westward Monument in Marietta this winter. The shelter is intended to prevent further weather degradation of the statue.

By winter’s end, Marietta’s sandstone monument memorializing entrance into the Northwest Territory will be under shelter.

The Start Westward Monument rests near the center of East Muskingum Park on Front Street and was created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who also orchestrated Mount Rushmore.

Dedicated in July 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, both monument and pylons have suffered weathering in the past 20 years since the last efforts to preserve the stonework.

But in anticipation of the United States 250th birthday, recent years have seen growing momentum to restore the monument to its former glory.

This month, weather permitting, a temporary shelter is to be erected above the statue as the first step in efforts to protect, restore and preserve the national symbol of pioneer movements west from the original 13 states.

A green canvas is to sit atop an open-air temporary structure, out of reach of those walking below.

“Installation should begin by the end of February, weather-permitting,” City Engineer Joe Tucker explained this week. “But this shelter won’t be where you can hide, it’s more for protection from further weather.”

The shelter, once not in use for the monument, can be reused for outdoor shelter elsewhere in the city.

Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf asked during committees this week if that included for salt stockpiles in winter or for city fleets and was assured both scenarios were possible.

Start Westward Committee Chairman Jean Yost, a local historian leading the charge of the monument’s preservation, also explained to the new Marietta City Council members this week that the protective shelter over the monument helps to build goodwill with the National Park Service as talks continue over ownership and preservation responsibility.

“This has taken many years and it may take more as we sort out ownership,” he said. “Remember this paperwork was being submitted during the Depression and World War II, and it seems the more documents we find, the more there are missing.”

The temporary structure cost the city $49,016 last year, but is only the first of planned spends on the monument.

Prior to its installation, Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz said, the city public facilities crews will remove limbs from the dead willow trees at the landing to the Muskingum River, behind the monument.

“Those trees, if a weather event were to occur, could put the shelter at risk,” Wetz explained.

Also last year, the city entered into a contract with Woolpert Engineering for $274,810 for phase one of analysis and preservation design of the monument.

This week Tucker requested an addition to that contract for $12,851 to employ an expert in masonry preservation; both costs Wetz confirmed are to be reimbursed by the state.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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