VA Uses Recovery Act Money to Repair Historic Monuments

St. Augustine National Cemetery

St. Augustine National Cemetery

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will use up to $4.4 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program to repair and preserve historic monuments and memorials at VA-operated national cemeteries, soldiers’ lots and other facilities throughout the United States.

“The Recovery Act will help us preserve these historic memorials for future generations,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “In many cases, these irreplaceable historic structures will receive long overdue repairs while keeping skilled American artisans employed on projects important to our heritage.”

Funds for the monument and memorial repairs are coming from more than $1.4 billion in the Recovery Act allocated to VA.

Forty-nine monuments at 36 sites in 23 states will be repaired or conserved under this program. These represent some of the oldest and most significant memorials at VA cemeteries, and require treatments that include cleaning, roof and step repairs, stone consolidation, joint repointing, and painting or waxing of metals.

Cost estimates for individual projects range from less than $10,000 to $510,000. The monuments and memorials included in this treatment initiative were installed between 1842 and 1952, and most are associated with the Civil War.

The most costly preservation project is the National Soldiers’ Monument at Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio. The Soldiers’ Monument dominates the landscape from atop a mound at the center of the cemetery. The cornerstone was laid in 1873 and it was completed in 1877. This dramatic structure is composed of a 30-foot marble column on a granite base and topped with a soldier at parade rest.

At the corners of the base are four figures representing the infantry, cavalry, artillery and Navy. President Rutherford B. Hayes delivered the dedication address on Sept. 12, 1877, to a crowd of about 22,000. This monument was severely vandalized in 1990, and the current initiative will address problems associated with the repair.

The oldest monument among the 49 sites is Dade’s Pyramids at St. Augustine National Cemetery in Florida. The pyramids cover vaults that contain the remains of 1,468 soldiers who died during the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842. The three Dade’s Pyramids are each six feet tall and were constructed in 1842 of coquina stone. They were dedicated at a ceremony that marked the end of the Florida Indian Wars.

The funds will also be used to repair and conserve three monumental limestone entrance archways built around 1870 at national cemeteries in Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn., and Marietta, Ga. VA will also use ARRA funds to conserve the soldiers’ obelisk monuments at cemeteries affiliated with the National Homes for Disabled Veteran Soldiers. Also scheduled for repairs are 11 monuments funded by states where large numbers of their troops were buried, five Confederate monuments, and a memorial to President Zachary Taylor located near his tomb in Louisville, Ky.

The Recovery Act, signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17, 2009, is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the American economy, create and save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. In addition to repairs to monuments and memorials, America’s national cemeteries will receive an estimated:

  • $25.9 million for national shrine projects to raise, realign, and clean headstones or grave markers and repair sunken graves at various locations across the country;
  • $5.9 million for energy-related projects such as conserving energy and water through the use of wind turbines, solar power and other measures;
  • $9.5 million to repair roads, buildings, and other cemetery infrastructure at locations nationwide; and
  • Nearly $6 million for equipment purchases for cemetery operations.

VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict — from the Revolutionary War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan — are buried in VA’s national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres of land.

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