Since 1926, the Astoria Column has endured walloping winds and torrential coastal storms which have taken their toll on the beloved local icon and national landmark. The nonprofit group Friends of Astoria Column, founded in 1988 to provide restoration and education, has raised and donated the funding to support several immense restoration projects to preserve the unique national treasure. With 50 tons of scaffolding and a netting cover in place for the 2015 restoration campaign, the Column now moves from the surface cleaning stage to an elaborate painting procedure.
“The Astoria Column, in and of itself, is an historic treasure unique to the entire nation,” says Marie Laibinis, internationally recognized expert in conservation of art and cultural objects, and Project Director and Conservator for the 2015 Astoria Column Restoration Project. “What makes the Astoria Column so incredibly special is its original artwork by Italian painter Attilio Pusterla, whose sgraffito technique was very similar to that used in Italy to adorn exterior building facades. The technique includes applying a layer of plaster tinted in contrasting colors and then scratching through the paint to create the drawing and design showing ornamentation where surface paint is layered to reveal contrasting colors and images.”
(NOTE: Only 20% of the original plaster murals on the north and east facades survived since 1926—and 1936 when Pusterla returned to restore the murals—but the sgraffito drawings remained. The 1995 restoration involved recreating the images with Keim mineral paints and restoring the murals that are eroding from the wind-driven rain.)
“The murals require periodic upkeep and repainting so Astorians and Oregonians continue to enjoy this iconic landmark. There is simply nothing quite like the Astoria Column in the United States,” says Laibinis.
According to Laibinis, the intricate surface cleaning process and preparation for new paint has been completed precisely as planned. Twenty-some years of weather beatings and standing water collecting in the cylinder crevices required the application of a biological solution to remove the growth of moss that was causing the brown coat layer to delaminate and spall off facade. The dead moss was then carefully removed and the surfaces were gently washed with water and light brushing in preparation for painting.
The conservator worked with a German paint company representative at Keim, who visited the Column in June to test repair mortars and paints on mock up samples to determine the highest quality materials to restore the murals. With paint strategies complete a layered system of painting begins that will offer even more façade protection than the 1995 restoration. The mineral silicate paint finishes last for decades, are safe, sustainable, breathable, water resistant and UV stable.
“For this restoration we are using a 3rd generation mineral paint product developed by Keim scientists for use on masonry exposed to harsh climatic conditions,” says Laibinis. “The paint, which has been applied to other historic structures, is much more durable and contains a biocide to prevent future growth on the façade. Now our restoration artists are ready to restore the full scale illustrations that are so unique to Oregon history and this monument.”
The Astoria Column Restoration Project 2015 is one of the most significant to date involving a team of preservation specialists to address structural repairs, architectural repairs, and additional structural surveys, elevations and inspections. Repairs to the plaza at the base of the Column, as well as landscape improvements and energy-efficient lighting upgrades will also be completed.
With the 2015 Astoria Column Restoration well underway, a unique national treasure and beloved local icon will shine bright for a 90th birthday celebration in 2016. History is preserved, community pride continues, and hundreds of thousands of visitors will enjoy the splendor and awe this national monument inspires.
Next up: Preservation specialists in structural and concrete repairs and the replacement and preservation of historic windows are contracted to bring their expertise to the Column.
About the Astoria Column
The Astoria Column is a ‘crowning monument’ in a series of 12 historical markers constructed between St. Paul, Minnesota and Astoria, Oregon to celebrate early settlers for their role in expanding the United States to the Pacific Coast. The markers were the pet project of Ralph Budd, who was president of the Great Northern Railroad at the time. With funding for the project from New York philanthropist Vincent Astor—great-grandson of businessman John Jacob Astor, whose Pacific Fur Company settled in Astoria in the early 1800s—and the expertise of architect Electus Litchfield and artist Attilio Pusterla, the Astoria Column commemorates the historic events that transpired at the mouth of the Columbia River. The 125 foot tall national landmark was completed in 1926 and today welcomes more than 400,000 visitors a year. For more facts on the Column, visit www.AstoriaColumn.org.
About Friends of Astoria Column
Friends of Astoria Column, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation, stewardship and public awareness related to the Astoria Column. The group was formed in 1988 to raise funds for and oversee the Column’s first full art restoration, an endeavor totaling approximately $1 million and completed in 1995. In 2004, the Friends raised funds for and managed a subsequent restoration totally $2 million, to include a new ADA-accessible granite plaza with benches, landscaping, night lighting and bollards. The group, with the City of Astoria, raised $600,000 in 2008 to replace the original 164-step spiral staircase. The Astoria Column Restoration Project 2015 is now underway.
For more information, contact:
Claudia Johnson, 503-799-2220, firstname.lastname@example.org