The crumbling concrete, illegible plaques, and unsightly flagpole that comprise the World War I memorial on the Common will soon be restored, thanks to the work of the War Monument Restoration Committee. The committee was appointed last summer to look into the care and condition of the town’s war memorials and monuments, and members quickly decided that the World War I memorial, installed in 1921, was the one in direst need of repair.
The committee originally researched the cost of replacing the concrete base with granite, but estimates of $60,000 and higher put that option out of financial reach. Instead, the cracks in the concrete base will be sealed to keep water out, and the two existing plaques will be removed and restored. Committee members said that this lower-cost approach has the benefit of keeping the look of the original memorial.
New plaque to be added
The plaque on the south side of the base contains the names of men and women of Harvard who served in World War I, but the committee has found at least a dozen townsfolk whose names were omitted. A third plaque will be installed on the base for those names. The existing plaque on the north side of the monument honors Edward Enoch Thomas, the only Harvard resident killed in World War I.
Estimates to restore and repair the memorial and add a new plaque come to about $15,000. The committee would like the restoration to be complete by Memorial Day 2018, so it is hoping to raise enough money to at least repair the base this year while the weather is warm enough to do the work. In addition, the committee hopes to receive a grant from the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission’s matching grant challenge. The commission, sponsored by the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, is offering up to $2,000 in matching funds for 100 local World War I monuments and memorials across the country. Towns receiving the grant will be expected to match the grant amount with fundraising.
When the World War I memorial restoration is complete, the committee will consider other monuments in town, including the monument on the southeast corner of the Common, which honors veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The committee has discussed how it might be expanded to include veterans of all the wars not memorialized elsewhere, as well as those residents who were killed while on active duty during those wars.
A gift account has been set up to accept tax-deductible donations to the war monument restoration fund. Checks should be made out to “Town of Harvard” with “WMRC” written in the memo section of the check.