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Restoration of an Iconic Monument

The Texas State Cemetery is home to a number of iconic monuments, Stephen F. Austin, John Connally, Joanna Troutman, John Wharton and others. However, the most iconic, the most unusual, is the monument to Albert Sidney Johnston, Confederate General. The Cemetery staff takes their role as conservators and stewards of these monuments very seriously and each poses its own unique challenge. Johnston, while forgotten to most laymen, was an influential military thinker and a hero of the Texas Revolution. During his day, many thought he was the most able military commander in the Civil War. However, this couldn’t be born out as he died early in the war at the Battle of Shiloh. 


Johnston told his surgeon he wanted to be buried in his adoptive homeland and he was. In 1903, the Legislature appropriated money to construct a grander monument to the general. In 1904, the iconic statue was installed on Cemetery grounds. Although beautiful, the monument needed to be treated with the utmost care. The sculpture is made of Italian marble, a medium perfect for the sculptor, but not for the steward. White marble is damaged very easily and doesn’t weather very well. Since the installation, Cemetery staff has done their utmost to protect the monument by constructing a vitrine around the sculpture. A vitrine is basically a display case, but needs to breathe and allow the stone to experience the fluctuations in temperature and humidity but not the elements. In the years since 1903, various vitrines have protected the monument and all have needed to be replaced. 


With the help of Renaissance Art’s Ron Parker, the Cemetery did just that over the last few days. Parker worked on the statue and its surrounding cage in an effort to preserve and protect one of the most unique headstones in the country.  The old vitrine was taken apart and some of the old hardware was salvaged to create a new (and better) display case for Elizabet Ney’s masterpiece. The statue was treated with sepiolite, a special clay that removed dirt without harming the stone chemically. After the treatment, Parker installed a new vitrine with a number of improvements on the old design. With the general looking better than ever, the Cemetery is pleased to invite the public to have a new look at an old masterpiece.