Westmoreland Museum of American Art soldier monument could be moved

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A committee has recommended the soldier monument outside the Westmoreland Museum of American Art be moved to Courthouse Square as part of an estimated $100,000 project.

Committee members discussed the move during a Greensburg Historic and Architectural Review Board meeting on Tuesday. The advisory panel unanimously approved the courthouse site.

The Westmoreland County commissioners and Greensburg City Council will need to vote on the move. The commissioners gave informal approval to using Courthouse Square, committee members said.

The monument needs to be moved so the museum can expand.

“We (need) to move it to a place that's more visible ... because Civil War history is dying,” said Sam Wian, a committee member and Civil War re-enactor.

Westmoreland County wasn't the scene of any Civil War battles, but countians marched off to that war, said James Sims, a committee member and fellow re-enactor.

“It did send many to fill the ranks when it was called upon,” he said.

Lou DeRose, committee chairman, said he was surprised by the cost, but the committee actually trimmed the estimate down to $100,000.

The committee will be turning to foundations, government grants, veterans groups and citizens to pay the tab.

Michael Kraus, curator of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland, will refurbish the bronze on the soldier portion of the monument, said Barbara Ciampini, committee member and Greensburg city planner.

Raimondo Masonry Restoration will move the memorial under the guidance of Ben Gage, a West Virginia sculptor and expert in moving fine art and large pieces.

DeRose said he liked the courthouse for the monument, one of about six sites discussed in the “core of Greensburg.”

“I think it's the best we can do with what we have to work with,” he said.

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 an $18 million project.

A covered walkway will be added to the museum front.

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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