Volunteers restore Green-Wood Cemetery monument to its former glory

A group of young preservationists, including six volunteers from France, helped to repair a monument dedicated to the oldest person to be buried in Green-Wood Cemetery on Wednesday August 12.

French REMPART (Union for the Restoration of Monuments and Artistic Heritage) volunteers partnered with two students from the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design as they worked on the white marble monument to Sarah W. Kairns (1737-1854) with a hydroxylating conversion treatment.

The French preservationists are in New York on an exchange program sponsored by Brooklyn-based preservation society, Preservation Volunteers.

“It’s important to preserve history, because in Europe restoration is an art,” said Gerry Delabite, who has volunteered with REMPART since 2007. “I like to discover this country and New York is a very popular destination for the French.”

Preservation Volunteers was begun in 2001 by the late preservationists Evelyn and Everett Ortner and current Chairperson Dexter Guerrieri as a means of advocating for historical preservation in Brooklyn, and Park Slope, in particular.

“You get to see the stories behind it,” said Green-Wood’s Manager of Restoration and Preservation Frank Morelli. “For me, it’s more fun when you have interns and you’re able to teach them these things. I have the kids for six weeks and they learn so much.”

Along with the hydroxylating treatment, the volunteers also performed rubbings of the front and back of the stone to be filed for future reference.

“The chemical is a liquid binder that requires three applications,” explains Morelli. “You put it on the stone which ‘sucks it in’ until it’s full. At that point, you let it dry and the liquid solidifies between the crystal matrix, creating a binder that holds the crystal together. That way you don’t get that ‘sugaring’ effect that you may find on certain stones. It gives you the ability to do maintenance – cleaning, scrub-brushing, rubbings without losing a ton of aggregant and losing the inscriptions.”

Preservation Volunteers has officially been partnered with REMPART since the former’s creation in 2001. This event marks the 14th consecutive year that Green-Wood has welcomed volunteers from the program.

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