By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
Asbury Park draws visitors and tourists to the city for so many reasons: music, beaches, restaurants and art. But the next group of visitors making their way to the city may be history buffs.
Asbury Park Historical Society President Don Stine is joining forces with history buff Russ McIver and professional monument conservationist Douglas Distefano to inspect and restore several historical monuments in the city.
The trio has set its sites on three monuments including the Civil War monument on Cookman Avenue, the James A. Bradley Statue in Bradley Park at the beachfront and the bust of John F. Kennedy in Kennedy Park in the downtown area.
“The city should not let it’s monuments fall into disrepair, obviously,” Stine said. “This is city owned property. We are looking for the permission and ability and maybe equipment.”
He cited cherry pickers as equipment that could be useful in inspecting the monuments. Inspections need to be made to provide information about the costs involved in repairing and restoring them.
Stine is hoping to get help from veterans groups, Civil War re-enactors and the county.
“Any defects we will need to address in a meaningful way,” he said.
Stine said the Civil War monument has granite pillars surrounding it which are connected with a plastic chain.
“We will replace that,” he said of the chain.
Speaking of the James A. Bradley statue he said he would like to see beachfront developers Madison Marquette involved.
“It behooves them to keep these monuments in good shape,” he said.
McIver of Allenhurst is working with the Monmouth County Historical Society to prepare a historical tour of Asbury Park to take place next year.
Addressing the Civil War monument, McIver said, “The Civil War monument deserves some attention. It honors the Civil War and veterans but it’s a historical artifact in and of itself. It’s worthy of restoration.”
McIver said he has learned that the two cannons located at the site were once used on The USS Cricket, which was the flag ship used by General Ulysses S. Grant when he patrolled the Ohio River.
The statue located at the site was installed in 1893 for Memorial Day but McIver noted that there are still facts about the monument that are being researched.
“There are two different stories we’ve heard, but we’ll find out,” he said.
As far as the Bradley statue, McIver said it was installed in 1922. With the centennial only five years away McIver said he would like to see the area in good repair for the 100 year anniversary.
“It would be cool to have it restored; it’s kind of neglected,” he said. “There are weeds around it and the marble needs to be cleaned.”
McIver, however, said the monuments should be cleaned and restored but not made to look brand new. Keeping them in good repair could discourage vandals, especially after a WWI monument was vandalized in Belmar recently.
Besides restoring the monuments McIver said he wants to let people know they are there.
“It’s something people should know about and care about,” he said.
Distefano, of Rumson, is owner of Monument Conservation Partners, a company which restores bronze, wood and historical items. He said he became involved about six months ago when he approached the City Council and was redirected to the APHS.
Distefano also expressed concern about the Civil War monument.
“That really needs to get done, there are cracks and we’re worried about freezing,” he said.
He said the first step would be hopefully using one of the city’s cherry pickers to do a proper inspection of the monument.
Distefano said working with the city would be a perfect private/public partnership model.
He is hoping to raise funds, possibly from the business community, to complete the restorations.
With so many visitors now coming to town, it would add one more area of interest.
“It’s such a booming town right now,” Distefano said.