Conservator returns to Westfield to finish monument restorations

Gordon Ponsford (left) and his assistant James Stamey apply a wax coating to the 104th Infantry Regiment monument in Apremont Park before heating it with the propane torch seen in Ponsford’s left hand. (PETER CURRIER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – The conservator tasked with restoring several of Westfield’s statues and monuments returned to finish his work after a few weeks of delay due to equipment failure. 

Gordon Ponsford of Ponsford Ltd. was in Apremont Park on Southampton Road July 26 to restore the metal plaques of two of the monuments there. Ponsford said that the writing on part of the plaques was nearly illegible before he started the restoration.

Ponsford began his work on Westfield’s monuments earlier in July, when he restored the Gen. William Shepard monument at Park Square. The Gen. Shepard statue, like many others in Westfield, had become badly corroded over time and was in need of repairs. 

Ponsford restores these monuments and plaques by using a laser to remove the “patina,” or the green layer of corrosion that often overtakes statues over time. After using the laser, a layer of wax is applied, which is then heated. Ponsford said that the wax gets into the pores of the metal and helps stave off future corrosion. A cold wax is then applied over that layer.

By his observation, Ponsford said that many of the monuments he has worked on in Westfield so far have never been maintained. He said that they should be maintained at least every few years to prevent the level of corrosion seen on the Gen. Shepard statue before it was restored. 

The Gen. Shepard statue was restored to its original colors over the course of the July 4 weekend by Gordon Ponsford. (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY CINDY GAYLORD)

Ponsford will also be working on the Civil War statue across from the Gen. Shepard statue and several monuments and stones in Pine Hill Cemetery. 

Ponsford said that conservators like himself are unique in the sense that there are very few of them across the U.S.. He estimates that there are only about 10 companies that do work on statues the way he does. As such, they often find themselves travelling for work. Ponsford himself is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. 

He said he had come to Westfield last year to help restore a North American F-86 Sabre plane at Barnes Air National Guard base.

Westfield’s Graves Officer Gene Theroux, who is acting as a project manager for Ponsford’s work, said that Ponsford’s equipment was able to remove vandalism from a zinc-based Civil War soldier statue in Pine Hill Cemetery without damaging the statue’s metal. 

Ponsford had been in Westfield earlier in July, but had to suspend his work because the laser malfunctioned and would no longer work correctly. Theroux said that the laser is expected to be back in Westfield this week.

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