PEABODY — Restoration crews have begun the painstaking process of taking apart the Civil War monument in Peabody Square this week.
The monument, which was located in the middle of the square, is being moved about 30 feet toward the courthouse to make way for the reconfiguration of the intersection. Structural restoration company Joseph Gnazzo took the granite monument apart piece-by-piece. Supervisor Jason Peck said there are 39 pieces overall, topped with the 10-foot tall, 5,300-pound, sword-wielding woman dubbed "Liberty."
Peck said there's added pressure when reconstructing a war monument, and not just because they have to appease the Peabody Historical Society.
"You're dealing with the birth of your country," he said, standing in front of the boxed statue, the first piece to come off the monument with a 131-foot crane and slings.
Peck said a lot can go wrong when moving a statue like this, from damaging the statue to damaging the property around it. It took the company three hours just to remove the statue, which was held in place only by the weight of the granite.
But the company, based in Union, Connecticut, has been in business more than 45 years. "You have to have a lot of experience," said Peck.
Joseph Gnazzo Co. will construct a new base and keep the separate pieces safely boxed behind a fenced-in area.
The monument, constructed in 1880, honors 71 Peabody natives who died in the Civil War. It has been a focal point of Memorial Day and veterans events in the city, including a VFW-sponsored event last Sunday.
"It's exciting to be moving the monument to its new location, and it's exciting to change the entire landscape of the square," said Brendan Callahan, the city's assistant director of planning, who's overseeing the project.
He said the schedule allows for five to six weeks for the dismantling and reassembly of the monument, and it should be ready for viewing by late June or early July. The new spot in front of the courthouse should be much more accessible to the public as well.
The remainder of the work on the roads converging in the square and sidewalks, which was estimated to cost $3.5 million overall, should last through the summer and into the fall. Nearly half the project is paid for with a $1.5 million state MassWorks grant the city received in 2014.
Another major feature of the redesign is to create a more traditional four-legged intersection by eliminating two right-turn only lanes (also known as slip ramps) that allow motorists to bypass the stop lights in the square.
When the relocation of the monument was announced in 2012, historian and Historical Society member Bill Power said at the time the structure was meant to dominate the city and celebrate the bravery of local soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The monument was dedicated in 1881, and was designed by Thomas Crawford in the likeness of his other famous creation, which sits atop the U.S. Capitol building.
When the rotary in downtown Peabody was removed in favor of a square design in 1989, the monument was moved 20 feet as part of the change. There are two time capsules in the structure from 1881 and 1989, but it is unclear when they will be opened.
For the time being, they're safe and sound at City Hall, according to Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who posted a picture to his Twitter account on Thursday of the freshly removed metallic capsules.
Taylor Rapalyea can be reached at email@example.com, by calling 978-338-2526, or on Twitter @taylorrapalyea.