CLINTON — They stand perched on the southern end of Clinton’s Riverview Drive. One faces north, another south; the remaining two each look out to the east and west.
They are four monumental figures – one a young soldier representing loyalty, the second, a woman with her hand raised upward toward the flag, for consecration. A third, standing for service, is a pioneer blacksmith with a pick and axe. The fourth, a grief-stricken mother, represents commemoration. An American Eagle stands guard. Above, the American flag flies over all.
The four, which together make up the body of Clinton County’s World War I Veterans Memorial, were the focus of attention Friday as residents and dignitaries gathered near the statue to celebrate its recent restoration.
The work marks the first phase of a project that will add to the memorial area that starts at Riverview Drive, which runs atop Clinton’s levee, and extends down Fifth Avenue South toward First Street and will pull together other memorials that are now strewn across the city.
“Before this (the levee) was built we used to have trees down here that were in honor of everybody that died during World War II,” said Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich. “There were little plaques by each tree. But then through the years, they were knocked down and destroyed. A lot of people then didn’t realize that those trees were in memory of somebody. They went when the levee came.”
Other pieces were built throughout the years. “Without a plan,” said Eric Van Lancker of the city’s one-year-old Monument Committee. “The Monument Committee is working to make everything more cohesive and upgrade it a little bit.”
The first phase of the work, the World War I Veterans Memorial, has a history dating to 1918. That’s when the Clinton Park Board set land aside for the memorial; in 1919, the Park Board asked the Daughters of the American Revolution to provide leadership and fundraising expertise.
Two of America’s most famous sculptors worked on the memorial – Lorado Taft as its designer and Leonard Crunelle as its sculptor of record. It was cast by American Art Bronze Foundry, Jules Berchem & Son Chicago and was dedicated June 14, 1930. It is now listed in the Smithsonian Art Catalogue and recently was recognized by the World War I Centennial Commission as a National World War I monument, according to Clinton History Club co-founder John Rowland.
Through the years, the memorial, which was placed in its current spot in 1979, has aged over time. The restoration project to remove its time-worn green cast and return its bronze to the way it initially looked began in 2017 when the Midwest Art Conservation Center completed a site inspection on the memorial. In August 2018, a contract was signed with the Midwest Art Conservation Center to clean and renovate the memorial.
The city hired Andrzej Dajnowski, owner of the Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio from Forest Park, Illinois to clean and restore the statue. Dajnowski and his team worked on the memorial with a new laser treatment process developed by his firm, making it the first outdoor art object in Iowa to be restored with the new laser process, city officials have said.
In the future, the city through the Monument Committee plans to replace the concrete around the statue and underneath the memorial area, which also includes two obelisks listing the names of service members either killed in action or missing in action during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. A DAR bench across the road and a fountain that now sits in the pocket park next to the Van Allen building will be moved to the site, said Vulich. The area also will become more handicap accessible.
Also, two Medal of Honor stones now on the ground in the memorial area will be more prominently positioned, Van Lancker said.
A rededication of the entire area is set for June 14.