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Veterans hope Scranton doughboy statue finds permanent home at Steamtown
Times-Tribune - 6/4/2018
June 04--SCRANTON -- Local veterans hope they have found a permanent home for the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" World War I statue removed from the former Duffy Park to make way for the new Harrison Avenue Bridge.
Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Rabiega-Gorgol Post No. 3451 of South Scranton want the statue, which is undergoing restoration by a New Jersey firm, to end up on permanent display at the Steamtown National Historic Site, said VFW post Commander Jerry O'Malley and past Commander Frank Warenda.
The VFW recently asked Steamtown to become the statue's permanent home, and the historic site is considering the request, a Steamtown official said.
The zinc statue previously had been at the Steamtown historic site, first in storage and then on display, until a few months ago, when it was shipped out both for restoration and mold-making for a bronze replica that will go into a new Duffy Park that will be created next to the new bridge.
For VFW members, the Steamtown historic site devoted to the nation's train and rail history is a natural fit as a permanent home for the doughboy statue. The statue was dedicated in 1940 in honor of Lt. Col. Frank Duffy, an engineer of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad who was killed in World War I in France.
"We want it at Steamtown because that's where it belongs. Col. Duffy worked over there," O'Malley said.
At first, the statue's time at Steamtown was supposed to have been a limited arrangement, extending through Nov. 11 and coinciding with the centennial anniversary of the Armistice Day end of WWI.
"Now, we want him to stay there," in perpetuity, Warenda said of the statue at the historic site.
Bill Fischer, chief of visitor services and resource management at Steamtown National Historic Site, said he has made a recommendation to the park superintendent that remains pending. He declined to say what the recommendation is, because a decision has not yet been made.
"We have to determine if it fits our scope of collection," Fischer said.
Though the doughboy statue was not specific to an individual -- and there were many similar ones throughout the nation -- the statue in Scranton became synonymous with native son Duffy, the highest ranking soldier from Lackawanna County killed in WWI and namesake of the small park that used to front the south side of the original Harrison Avenue Bridge.
As an employee of the railroad company, Duffy worked locally throughout the area.
"He would have been intimately familiar with the grounds here" at Steamtown National Historic Site, Fischer said. "Undoubtedly, he walked through the roundhouse here and was familiar with the buildings."
President of the Scranton Engineers Club and supervisor with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, Duffy set sail with the 103rd Engineers on May 18, 1918. He was killed Aug. 17, 1918, by an enemy mortar in France.
On Memorial Day 1940, the Rabiega-Gorgol VFW post and National Association of Regulars Anthracite Post No. 4 dedicated the statue in honor of Duffy.
It stood in Duffy Park for nearly 75 years, until it was taken down in late 2014 to make way for construction of a new Harrison Avenue Bridge by the state Department of Transportation.
Crated up on site for some time, the statue eventually went into storage at Steamtown National Historic Site.
In June 2017, the statue came out of Steamtown storage for a Flag Day public event. At that time, the historic site began a centennial commemoration of America's participation in World War I with a rededication of the statue in the park's museum complex.
A few months ago, PennDOT had the statue shipped out to Moorland Studios in Stockton, New Jersey, for restoration and mold-making for a replica.
Moorland stabilized the statue so it could be sent to the Laran Bronze foundry in Chester for wax molds, upon which a bronze replica will be cast, said Moorland Studios conservator Constance Bassett.
As zinc is not as structurally stable as bronze or steel, it was not unusual to have such doughboy statues deteriorate, crack and tilt, she said. Vandalism also damaged them. Prior old repair work of the Scranton doughboy involving concrete put in the leg and use of plates and epoxy to secure cracks also had to be undone and fixed, she said.
"Our process was to bring the statue back to as close to what it was originally was," Bassett said. "The more whole we can make this, the better."
When done at the foundry, both the original and replica statues will return to Moorland, which will complete restoration of the original. Some of its missing facets, including a bayonet and strap on the rifle and barbed wire at the feet, were acquired and will be put back in place, she said.
The bronze replica will be placed at a new Duffy Park that PennDOT will create at the south end of the new bridge.
The spot for the new park currently is a construction yard where the original bridge connected. Implosion of the remains of the old bridge is scheduled for Tuesday.
Warenda believes the new park won't be completed until fall. VFW members hope the original statue and replica both are completed and returned in time for Veterans Day events.
As for where the original statue would go if the Steamtown historic site turns down a permanent placement there, O'Malley said the VFW post does not have an alternative.
"Our Plan B is to do Plan A," O'Malley said.
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Lt. Col. Frank Duffy
n The highest-ranking soldier from Lackawanna County killed in World War I.
n Served in WWI with 103rd Engineer Regiment, 28th Division.
n President of the Scranton Engineers Club and head of the electrical department with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.
n Formed Company F of the 103rd Engineers.
n Set sail with the 103rd Engineers on May 18, 1918.
n Killed Aug. 17, 1918, by an enemy mortar in France, where he is buried.
n In 2015, the state Legislature approved a measure to name a new Harrison Avenue bridge in Scranton as the "Colonel Frank Duffy Memorial Bridge."
About the Doughboy statue
Title: Spirit of the American Doughboy
Sculptor: E.M. Viquesney (1876-1946)
Material: Cast zinc
Dates: 1934 copyright of design; statue dedicated on May 30, 1940
Dedicated by: Veterans of Foreign Wars Rabiega-Gorgol Post No. 3451 and National Association of Regulars Anthracite Post No. 4
Height: 6'9" tall, on a 22" square base
Location: Previously stood for nearly 75 years atop a concrete plinth at the former Colonel Frank J. Duffy Memorial Park, Harrison Avenue and Moosic Street, Scranton.
Removal: The statue was taken down and put in a crate in November 2014 to make way for construction of a new Harrison Avenue Bridge. After it was crated up on site for some time, it later was put in storage and on display at Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton. A few months ago, the statue was shipped to a firm in Stockton, New Jersey, for restoration and to serve as a model for a bronze replica being made at a foundry in Chester.
Return: The replica will go into a new Duffy Park to be created at the new Harrison Avenue Bridge; the local VFW post wants the original statue to go back to Steamtown National Historic Site and stay there permanently.
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