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Friday, 26 September, 2008 2:12 PM

The Spirit of Detroit Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Cass Technical High School Percussion performed in front of the Spirit of Detroit.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

DETROIT – The Spirit of Detroit commemorated its 50th anniversary on Tuesday at its home in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. The statue was dedicated on Sept. 23, 1958 with sculptor Marshall Fredericks on hand. On Tuesday, new Detroit mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. was there along with Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers, among many other distinguished guests. The statue was completely renovated.

"Probably about 800 people came out to help us celebrate," said Patricia Cole, chairperson of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, which owns and operates the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. "The rededication was a major restoration project. It took us from beginning to end probably about six months so we're proud. We've cleaned him up. He's got a renewed spirit. We're all very, very proud."

The statue is made of bronze and stands larger-than-life. It is 16 feet high with an arm span of 22 feet and weighs nine tons. The Spirit of Detroit was made in Oslo, Norway and is the largest cast bronze statue since the Renaissance period. It was commissioned in 1955 for an original cost of $58,000 and was dedicated in 1958.

"It's a very unique piece of public art," said Gregory McDuffee, general manager of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority. "People in southeast Michigan are very familiar with it. It was shipped here to Detroit and lifted off a freighter than placed at its pedestal. The sculptor Marshall Fredericks was from Detroit. He actually designed and created the piece here."

The statue sits on a 60-ton marble lab. Its backdrop is 36 feet by 45 feet of Vermont marble backdrop. There are 24-karat golf leaf figures in each hand. One depicts a cradled family and the other holds a spire presenting a higher power.

"It's so wonderful," said Detroit resident Mary Aighekhnowin of the renovated statue. "It's been a great day here. We look at this as a new beginning that the lord is gonna do something special. I already took some pictures today and it's so wonderful. The color is beautiful. The gold is all shining. It's been great."

The renovation and anniversary took place just days after new mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. took office. He became the mayor after Kwame Kilpatrick resigned due to the text message scandal.

"I think it's a great time in Detroit. Am I right?" said interim mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. during the ceremony. "It gives me great pleasure to stand with all of you today in front of a historic and important part of the city of Detroit. That is of course our renewed and refurbished Spirit of Detroit. I would like to thank all of the hard-working men and women of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority.

"The Spirit of Detroit is not just a statue that sits in front of our building. It really is representative of the city of Detroit. It is a meeting place, a gathering place. It is the undying and unyielding spirit of the city. In the left hand, there is a symbol for god. In the right hand, he holds a family. This is extremely symbolic for our city as we turn a new page and move our city forward to new and dynamic heights."

Acid rain and age caused the green patina coating to dull and chip. The gilded orb lost its luster. The longest ray from the orb lost a bracket which caused damage to the Spirit's shoulder. Limited waxing and weather elements caused staining and chipping of marble base.

"I am delighted to see the restoration of our statue," said Harriet Saperstein, chairperson of the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3). "I think it's important for us to remember our history, to restore and protect it. We have fun with it. We put the Tigers and hopefully the Lions shirt on it. It looks beautiful now. I think that the celebration and dedication of this was very well done."

Restoration was provided by Chezcore, Inc., Venus Bronze Works and CASO-IMPEX. The restoration process began in March 2008 and was completed in August 2008.

"It was cleaned with sandblasting medium of pulverized walnut shells and power washed after that," said Scott Slocum, a restoration worker from Venus Bronze Works. "Get all that cleaned up and we went to patina, which is a heat and chemistry process of restoring the coloration back to the green it started out as. Over time, the patina had gone mostly black with lots of streaking. The streaks remain. They're engrained in the metal itself now. You can always bring the color back which is what we've achieved."

Timing was perfect. NBC's "Today" show will broadcast LIVE from Detroit's Campus Martius Park on Thursday, Sept. 25.

"That's incredible," said Patricia Cole, chairperson of the DWJBA. When asked if the Spirit of Detroit was going to be included on their broadcast, she replied: "I don't know why they wouldn't. Somebody oughta tell them if they haven't. That would be a great thing. They really should do it from here instead of Campus Martius. I guess we can't close Woodward Avenue for four hours."

"It's always fun if you get some national press," Saperstein said. "Unfortunately Detroit gets bad press a lot of the time. We have good press."

The Spirit of Detroit has been restored to its full glory and can now be viewed by all.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. share some smiles before the ceremony.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Friends School Vocal Ensemble performed two songs in front of the statue.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Four girls from the vocal ensemble perform live.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Patricia Cole, chairperson of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, was the master of ceremonies.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Interim Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. looks on.

 

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