City seeks funding to rehab historic statue
Hermann the German has stood watch over New Ulm, Minn., for more than 100 years, so it is not surprising that the 32-foot-tall statue could now use a little “down time.” Built with steel framing and copper sheeting, the structure has succumbed to corrosion and chipping, prompting local officials to undertake a restoration project.
The Hermann statue is modeled on a similar statue in Detmold, Germany. (Hermann was a German freedom fighter in 9 A.D.) In 1897, local architect and resident Julius Berndt constructed the New Ulm memorial for the Order of the Sons of Hermann, a German national society. When the Order disbanded after World War I, the city assumed maintenance of the statue.
Today, Hermann is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the second-tallest U.S. monument, following the Statue of Liberty. He stands as part of a 102-foot monument that includes an open pavilion bordered by decorative pillars; a winding staircase that leads to an enclosed viewing area; and an open viewing platform immediately beneath the statue’s feet. Inside the base is a small museum.
Last summer, New Ulm spent $770,000 for work on the monument’s base. The project included removing lead-based paint; replacing windows in the enclosed viewing area; installing new lighting; and updating guardrails.
With completion of that work, the city has turned its attention to Hermann. The statue’s interior framing struts have corroded over the years, and the copper exterior has been damaged by the elements, explains Alan Gag, building official for New Ulm. Later this year, Hermann will be taken indoors, where he will be restored and then returned to his stately perch.
New Ulm officials estimate that the statue’s renewal could take a year and cost up to $750,000. “This is very specialized work, and it’s hard to find people to do [it],” says City Councilor Denis Warta.
Warta is spearheading the city’s effort to raise money. The Minnesota Historical Society has made donations, and Warta hopes to obtain funding from federal sources as well.