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Soldier monument to be relocated from outside Westmoreland Museum of American Art

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Monday, March 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A soldier who has stood watch over Greensburg for more than a half century will soon receive orders to muster elsewhere.

But the 6-foot-tall soldier on the 25-foot perch outside the Westmoreland Museum of American Art will have to wait until at least March 19 to know more about his deployment.

Members of a committee looking to move the monument to assist the museum's expansion plans said they will be mum on the move until a meeting of Greensburg's Historic and Architectural Review Board.

The committee members, all volunteers, met on Thursday night and reviewed two estimates for moving the memorial.

“We're putting it on the HARB agenda, the statue,” said Barbara Ciampini, a committee member and Greensburg planning director.

“We're moving it from one location to another in the Gateway (a zoning district in the city), so that's how we decided to do it (during the meeting),” she said.

By that meeting, committee members hope to have unresolved issues settled, Ciampini said.

“We still have some things to iron out. That's when we decided to forge ahead,” she said.

Ciampini declined to discuss the issue more, including the estimates.

Telephone messages left for Lou DeRose, committee chairman, and Barbara Jones, a committee member and museum curator, were not returned on Friday.

Ciampini and Jones serve on the historic review board — an advisory group for city council — and DeRose serves as its solicitor.

Monument committee member James Sims said no decision has been made about the two estimates. He confirmed the March 19 meeting discussion.

“We're putting together a budget,” he said. “We still have to make a decision on a vendor.”

Sims declined to discuss the estimates but said he wants to get going with the project because the public's help with fundraising will be critical. Museum officials want to hold groundbreaking this summer, he added.

“We have to look at this as preservation,” he said.

Last fall, Ben Gage, a West Virginia sculptor and expert in moving fine art, examined the monument to determine moving costs. After receiving his estimate, committee members sought more prices.

Members have discussed the Westmoreland County Courthouse and St. Clair Park as two possible spots for the memorial.

The committee plans to use a nonprofit group to help collect donations to pay for the move and related costs.

Museum officials are proposing a 12,500-square-foot addition with a 60-foot cantilever on the North Maple Avenue side of the museum as part of the $18 million project.

A covered walkway will be added to the museum front, and a keystone-shaped window will be set into the brick wall on the North Main Street side of the structure.

Museum officials plan extensive landscaping to the front of the building.

The monument went up in 1925, flanked by four cannons, near the old Greensburg City Hall on North Main Street. Civil War and World War I veterans and others helped pay for the monument, which was dedicated on May 30, 1925, as the Westmoreland County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

In 1949, City Hall moved to its current spot on South Main Street, and the museum took over the North Main Street property.

A decade later, workers moved the monument a few feet to its current site once a community fervor arose in opposition to plans to erect it in St. Clair Park, according to published reports.

The monument went up originally as a memorial to Union Civil War soldiers and sailors, but over time it has evolved into a remembrance of all American armed forces members.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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