Construction begins to rebuild damaged Louisiana Monument

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Vicksburg National Military Park Historian Terry Winschel, left, and Keystone Restoration employees Manuel Duran Duran, center, and Lane Thomas discuss the Louisiana Monument Monday. (C. Todd ShermanThe Vicksburg Post)

[06/17/03] The return of the Louisiana Monument to the Vicksburg National Military Park will start with a little more demolition. The granite and concrete stump will soon be removed so the 81-foot obelisk can go back up.

For four years, the monument’s segments have been on the ground. Joggers, tourists and everyone else will soon see them going back up. The first work crews began setting up the construction area Friday.

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The overhaul of the monument, taken down after being damaged by lightning, will be tricky. “Putting it back up will be a 10 out of 10 in complexity,” park Superintendent Bill Nichols said.

Parts of Confederate Avenue will be closed Wednesday to get heavy machinery to the site, Nichols said.

Keystone Restoration Inc., from Palm Beach, Fla., plans to demolish the monument’s base, build a stronger one in its place and rebuild the monument using the more than 50 pieces from the original structure built in 1920. Company President Al Pinedo said the firm specializes in historical restorations of landmarks. This one may take up to nine months, depending on the weather.

After the base is removed, four pilings will be driven 45 feet in the ground for added support as the monument goes back up. A lightning protection system will also be added.

“When lightning strikes again the monument will be able to withstand it,” Pinedo said.

The federally funded contract with Keystone is for $679,713, Nichols said. Other costs include $54,478 for a project supervisor, and the park will have $67,971 on hand for emergency costs.

The park documents and preserves the scenes of a lot of Civil War activity here in 1863. It was created by Congress in 1899 and states, in turn, erected monuments and memorials to soldiers who fought for Union or Confederate forces.

Park Historian Terry Winschel said the Louisiana monument is on the highest point in the county, 397 feet above sea level, on what was the longest and most formidable fort for the Confederate defenses. He said the cost of the original monument was $35,000 to $40,000.

The monument began leaning due to rifts in its base after being struck by lightning twice in May 1999.

Park officials decided to take all the segments down and the dismantling process began in July 1999.