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Robin Whitehurst Accepts Preservation Recognition

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The Winnetka Landmark Preservation Commission selected the the Cenotaph at the Village Green as recipient of a Preservation Award for restoration work completed by Robin Whitehurst of Bailey Edward. The historic preservation work performed restores the property to its original appearance using original plans and required research. 

In 1927, proud Winnetka residents funded a memorial honoring hometown Winnetka soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in World War I. Samuel S. Otis, an architect trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard designed the winning solution. The Winnetka Cenotaph is a 1,600 sf monument with platform, steps, benches and cenotaph proper cut from Tennessee marble. The ‘tomb’ is adorned with bronze stars plated in 14 karat gold honoring the veterans killed in World War I and features bronze plaques engraved with the names of Winnetka’s war lost from World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam Conflict. Flanking the ‘tomb’ are bronze eagles that illustrate protection and endurance of those lost loved ones. To finish out the design of the monument, a nine foot tall gilded eagle with wings in air is mounted on a flagpole staff of Oregon fir nearly 300 years old. The Winnetka Cenotaph stands at the crown of the Village Green honoring those 192 Village sons and daughters.

The Winnetka Cenotaph stands as a centerpiece of Village annual patriotic ceremonies and community festivals. It is a gathering place for families enjoying the park on a daily basis. It has become not only a soldier’s monument but a proud symbol of the Village of Winnetka.

In its 84-year history, the monument’s marble and bronze has symbolized stability and respect, however in recent years it became evident that along with the marble, the monument’s honor was cracking and in need of a prideful restoration. The Winnetka Cenotaph was displaying signs of movement and deterioration. Given the prominent location of this memorial and its importance to the community, in 2008 the Village determined it a priority to restore the monument.

Water ingress had caused stones to migrate and joints to open. Once in the wall, the water saturated the mortar beds. Freeze-thaw action caused additional mortar deteriorations, allowing the anchors to loosen. While some stones were cracked, others were stained with water runoff from the bronze plaques. The flagpole-topping eagle had lost its glorious luster.

A study was performed to examine the monument. Careful preservation efforts involved removal of stones to reveal the method of attachment, the condition and configuration of the substrate, and evidence of the dynamics that caused the deterioration. To retain the historic appearance, each stone was surveyed, labeled and cleaned to remove bronze staining. Selective patching and Dutchmen repair work successfully integrated old with new stone. The mortar bed was augmented with a concrete layer and a concealed drainage system. The monuments’ bronze eagles, flagpole base and plaques were repaired and waxed; the adorned stars were dip electroplated; and the eagle topping the flagpole was re-gilded.

Completed in 2009, the restoration of the Winnetka Cenotaph demonstrates a community committed to remembrance and advocacy. Furthermore, it reflects the thoughts of fallen World War I veteran Dinsmore Ely ‘It is an investment, not a loss, when a man dies for his country.’