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A video in our MASTERS SERIES.

A video in our MASTERS SERIES.

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This long video presents almost all the phases of conservation work in rebuilding, restoring and preserving a severely damaged outdoor zinc sculpture. The video is offered in the the actual sequences of tasks but is largely unedited so that it for the most part presents the work in real time.

Much of the reconstruction used soldering just as the sculpture was built, from many cast sections of zinc. Reconstructions of lost zinc portion of the outdoor zinc sculpture were fabricated from zinc by hand and soldered. The ability to do this level of conservation work on old zinc sculpture is rare.

El Paso “Texas: Lady Justice Returns”


“The Lady Justice statue in El Paso lost her home when the red brick Victorian building courthouse was demolished in 1917 to make way for a larger courthouse. That courthouse, which did not have a place for a statue on the roof, was also demolished, replaced by the 12-story glass tower where county government is today.

The Lady Justice statue was moved to various public spots and was eventually placed next to the old Liberty Hall, also now demolished, where the El Paso Symphony Orchestra played.

The statue spent some time in storage in a county warehouse and even some time at a farm in the Lower Valley, Neill says. Finally, she was placed in a wrought iron enclosure at the entrance to Ascarate Park.

The dilapidated statue was largely ignored until Prince McKenzie, curator of the El Paso Railroad and Transportation Museum, brought the statue to Justice Chew’s attention.

In 2007, El Paso County Commissioners Court approved a request by the El Paso Bar Association to restore the statue. The county tapped its hotel occupancy tax revenue, which can be used for historic preservation, to fund the $34,355 restoration, Neill says.

The condition of the statue was “terrible,” says Tom Podnar, senior metals conservator at the McKay Lodge Conservatory in Ohio, who led the restoration of the statue.

“So many times she had been smashed from the outside. We are not talking about a dent like a softball, but her whole body got smashed,” Podnar says.

The restoration, using the original construction techniques, took all last winter. “You really have to take your time,” Podnar says, “and every day you make a little more progress.”

Craftsmen were able to save the original material and, where pieces were missing, they used another surviving Lady Justice statue as a reference to fashion new parts, according to Podnar.”

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