by Robert Kimmel –
Wings spread widely, but never in flight, the eagle has stood for more than 100 years near the Hudson River just west of the Philipse Manor train station. The stately cast iron sculpture of America’s national historical symbol is now the subject of a rescue mission.
The eagle statue’s structural condition is described as “poor,” and “in bad decay and in need of restoration, if it is going to survive for future generations.” The task of saving the sculpture was initiated by a committee of the Philipse Manor Improvement Association, (PMIA). It has gotten the cooperation of The Historical Society, Inc., serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Now they are looking to the public for help.
The sculpture was one of 11 “Grand Central Eagles” which decorated towers at the New York City train station for about 12 years before the building was renovated in 1910, when it was donated to the Philipse Manor Company. All of the eagles were removed and distributed to locations throughout the region; some can be seen today. Two finally made it back to Grand Central Terminal where they can be observed. The whereabouts of two others remains a mystery.
Since its placement at the Philipse Manor station, the one-and-a-half ton statue, with a 14-foot wingspan, has been under the care of different parties. A recent assessment of the eagle’s condition was done by Dawn Kriss, chair of the present restoration committee. Kriss, a conservator who has worked at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as having been involved in archaeological projects, provided a description of the statue’s present status.
While photos of the sculpture from 1994 showed it to have been freshly painted, as it was again in 2002, it apparently had never had a professional restoration treatment since its local arrival. An earlier committee of the PMIA planned to have that work done six years ago; however, the pursuit ended unfulfilled for a variety of reasons, Kriss related.
That previous committee did receive quotes for work on the eagle. The Architectural Iron Company, which restored the two statues returned to Grand Central Station, asked for $50,000, which they listed as a “steeply discounted price,” according to a member of the 2012 committee, Klaus Schmidt, with whom Kriss spoke. That cost excluded the plinth, the base below the spherical ball on which the eagle stands. A second quote was for $40,000 from Wilson Conservation, but that also did not include the plinth nor moving the eagle to an enclosed location for the work.
“There are large losses along the edges of the wings,” Kriss wrote in her assessment. She noted that moisture had entered the piece, which “likely contributed to preferential corrosion in certain regions.” “There are cracks and losses in the paint,” she noted, “suggesting that it is not protecting the metal, but instead may be contributing to further corrosion, as it traps moisture under the existing surface. The iron is heavily oxidized, with a red-brown coloration throughout,” she added. The assessment went on to define many other flaws in the piece and its base.
In order to restore the statue, “We are hoping to raise about $75,000,” Kriss said. However, she added, “It could be closer to $100,000,” with work also on the base and other aspects within the sculpture. Treatment of the eagle should take place in a controlled environment, she stressed, and may require welding and have other yet undiscovered restoration needs.
The restoration committee, composed of Kriss, Eliot Martone, Mackenzie Dawson, Michelle Spino Andruss, Ray Endreny, Steven Espinoza, Andrea Martone, Alexandra Mulvey, Shelly Robinson and Anthony Scarpati, is reaching out to the public for donations, with the assistance of the Historical Society. It is “accepting contributions via checks or corporate matches payable to The Historical Society, Inc., at One Grove Street Tarrytown, NY 10591. Payments must be designated as ‘The Eagle Fund Restoration’ so that they are specifically identified for this restoration project. The Historical Society is a 501(c)3 organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.” Donations for the eagle restoration may also be made directly at the Philipse Manor website, http://www.philipsemanor.org/eagle/ or the Historical Society website at http://www.thehistoricalsociety.net/donations/philipse-manor-eagle-restoration/.