After 102 years of weathering the winter freeze and the spring thaw, Bowdoin's lone gargoyle finally gave way two years ago. A facilities team inspecting Hubbard Hall's masonry noticed a crack in the gargoyle and sent up an engineer to investigate.
"When the engineer got up there to look at it, when he actually put his hands on this thing, that's when a section of the wing came off and we knew right then that this was not good," Major Maintenance Program Manager Michael Veilleux said. "We decided right then that we should remove it."
The gargoyle was taken down, and a committee was formed to find a replacement. The committee considered numerous proposals for reconstruction before settling on Walter Arnold, a Chicago-based sculptor, over Constantine Seferlis. Arnold had apprenticed as a marble sculptor in Italy and also worked at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. before starting his own studio in 1985.
"It was readily obvious that these two guys were the top in terms of quality and experience, so it was a fairly easy choice," said Veilleux. "Between those two, it just came down to price."
The old gargoyle was shipped to Chicago, where Arnold is to fashion a replica out of a 2,200 pound block of Indiana limestone. He will use the same type of tools that the original gargoyle was sculpted with, including a pneumatic hammer, which is similar to a mini-jackhammer.
The replica will be as exact as Arnold can make it. "Our theory is that the damage occurred due to the freezing and thawing of ice in [the gargoyle's] throat," Veilleux said.
A distinctive feature of gargoyles is that water is funneled through their mouths. Noted Veilleux, "We thought about making it a grotesque (a gargoyle that doesn't have a hole in the throat), but we all agreed we wanted it to be restored as close to the original as possible."
Instead of a grotesque, the final design calls for less drainage of water through the gargoyle through changes in the roof, turning the gargoyle into an overflow drain. That way, Veilleux hopes that the damaging freezing and thawing can be minimized.
Students should not expect to see the new gargoyle soon?Due to maintenance on other areas of Hubbard as well as the difficulties of reinstalling the gargoyle, the new one will not be affixed for two to three years, even though Arnold expects to complete it this spring.
In the mean time, Veilleux is interested in putting the new gargoyle on display, potentially in the lobby of Hubbard Hall. Then, when it is installed, the old gargoyle could take its place.
"The old one is in pieces, and it could be glued back together sufficiently such that it could be used as a display piece," he said.
Arnold, the sculptor, agreed on the gargoyle's appeal. "A gargoyle really adds a lot of character and life to a building," he said. "These are the things that really make a building distinctive and can really bring a building alive."