When a large pickup truck plowed into the Doughboy Monument last summer, it wasn’t the first time the World War I memorial on Marine Drive had tangled with a vehicle, but it was among the worst accidents emergency responders had seen at the Uniontown landmark.
Portions of the city-owned monument were left broken and scarred. The crash snapped light poles, damaged planter boxes and cracked the concrete on curving walls.
The accident also temporarily derailed plans that were already in motion at the time to restore features of the monument.
The Astoria Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the site, reported earlier this spring that the city is still on track to have repair work — covered by insurance — and the bulk of the restoration — funded by a variety of grants — completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on Nov. 11.
On Saturday, students with Clatsop Community College’s historic preservation and restoration program circled the memorial with clipboards in hand, assessing what needs to be done. Lucien Swerdloff, the program’s coordinator, and others are leading workshops at the site. It has turned the memorial into a very unique kind of classroom. “It is kind of ideal because it’s small. It’s manageable, but there’s a lot of things going on with it,” Swerdloff said.
“A lot of the time when we do the workshops we have it all figured out and we just come and kind of do it,” he added. “So the students don’t get that whole ‘before’ stuff: How do you figure out what needs to be done? What materials do you need? How much is it going to cost?”
Replacing and restoring the memorial’s historic components has involved sourcing materials from outside the area. Because little plaster work is done in town, the historic preservationists have bought most of their plaster in Portland. It has been especially costly to replace the broken light poles, Swerdloff said. They had to order a new mold, a process that cost thousands of dollars.
College students have already replastered the two bathrooms that form the base of the structure, followed by students from Tongue Point Job Corps Center who have begun to paint the interior. Take almost any city park and likely students from Job Corps have probably had a hand in improving or maintaining the site, Jonah Dart-McLean, the parks maintenance supervisor, noted at a Parks Advisory Board meeting this month.
“The amount of community involvement we have for this project is nothing short of inspiring,” Angela Cosby, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said in a statement in March. “From our partnerships with Clatsop Community College, our elected officials, our grant providers, and our staff, we will be leaving a lasting legacy of the veterans of Clatsop County who served in World War I with honor and valor.”
Though the site is commonly referred to as the Doughboy Monument because of the bronze sculpture of a soldier brandishing a rifle that stands on a pedestal atop the structure, it is also known as the Astoria Victory Monument. It was designed in 1926 by Charles T. Diamond and the bronze sculpture was crafted by artist John Paulding. It was commissioned by the local American Legion post to honor county residents who served in World War I.