While Eisler Landscapes is known for creating stunning outdoor spaces with the most modern conveniences, they recently worked on a project paying homage to a Pittsburgh philanthropist from the turn of the century.
Erected in 1909, the monument entitled “For Man, Beast & Bird,” honors the memory of Annie Hartzell, who helped to form the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, now known as Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh. Now under the auspices of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservatory, the statue needed to be cleaned, repaired and moved to its original location on the corner of Federal Street on the Northside. And that was no small task.
“You have to go a lot slower than with new construction projects; it usually takes a bit of research, and it’s problem-solving on a different level,” said Eric French, president, Eisler Landscapes. “Every one of these types of projects is completely different, and you’re creating your solutions from scratch.
“You have to think about every aspect, especially when you’re working on art pieces,” he added. “You’re not going and getting another one if you drop it.”
The Hartzell memorial, one of the few monuments in the city to honor a woman, was moved in 1973 from its original location on Federal Street to a corner of Market Square, and then moved again in 1990 when the square was renovated to a location about 300 feet from where it stands today.
“While moving the monument was pretty straightforward, it was tough to figure out what it weighed because there could have been more of it underground,” said French. “We had to try to calculate the volume and use the bulk density of granite in order to get the right-sized crane, and we ended up fairly close, which was the good news.”
The bad news is that over time, the monument had been damaged and would require a special touch to bring it back to its original state. Eisler Landscape worked with Teresa Duff, chief conservator and director at LINEAGE Historic Preservation Services, to make sure that the monument was properly restored.
“Over time, the monument has undergone different iterations, and alterations included changes to the ‘X’ details at the top, three of which had been cored out,” said Duff.
“To reinstate the X’s with granite wouldn’t look right because of the way the cuts were made to the monument,” she added. “In order to acknowledge the monument’s history, including the changes it had undergone over the past 100 years, we decided to have a custom cast made and to cast the X’s in bronze. While it is still an original detail, it is a different material and by replacing it with bronze, we’re acknowledging the fact that these specific details are not original.”
At one point, the sides of the monument served as water basins for horses, dogs and other animals. These basins had been filled with cement and needed to be hammered out and re-chiseled. “This definitely brought back much of the original intent of the monument,” said Duff.
The lion’s face, which was originally a spout for water that flowed into a drinking trough, also had to be recast. Unfortunately, the finished monument will no longer serve as a fountain as the cost to bring it up to current codes is cost-prohibitive.
“The first lion’s head was hand-carved in clay and sent to a bronze craftsman to cast, but it needed to be redone,” said French of the highly customized work. “Fortunately, we’ve got vendors in Pittsburgh who can do that kind of work.”
The project was carried out incrementally over the summer with cleaning and minor repairs taking place in situ before the monument was moved, followed by more cleaning and detailing once it was placed in its new location.
“It’s such a small, sweet little monument, I thought it would be fairly straightforward, but it didn’t go exactly to plan,” laughed Duff of the final product. “The X details were a challenge, and though the bronze ended up working out, we had to go through a process to get there.
“Also, some of the previous work done had cut into the stone, and to reintegrate that is very difficult—it’s like when a bone breaks, there’s always a weak point, she added. “There are always challenges and shake ups, but ultimately, it went pretty smoothly.”
The monument was not the first time that either company worked on this type of restoration or public art project. Eisler was responsible for placing Duo, a sculpture by James Rosati, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District last season, and Duff’s restorations can be seen at Trinity Cathedral on Sixth Avenue downtown, Hartwood Acres Mansion, and at Heinz Hall, where she oversaw the restoration of the decorative finishes and gilding on the interior of the hall.
“For Man, Beast and Bird” was unveiled in October, and visitors can stop by to see the restored work, now in its original—and hopefully final—resting place.