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Published: Friday, 7/13/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

MEMORIAL TO PEACE AND VICTORY

Perry monument reopens after 3-year-long tuneup

BY ROBERTA REDFERN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tanya Hadzhieva and Rossi Kitanova of Bulgaria tour Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The monument recently reopened after a three-year hiatus for repairs. Tanya Hadzhieva and Rossi Kitanova of Bulgaria tour Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The monument recently reopened after a three-year hiatus for repairs.
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PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio -- Gregg Urban tries to never miss the chance to hit the top of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial when he visits Put-in-Bay.

"It's the place to go when you go to Put-in-Bay," he said Thursday after visiting the recently reopened historic monument with his daughter, Morgan, 12 and his niece, Alexa, 18, all of Fremont. "I'm glad to see it reopened; we have missed it. I love the view -- best view on Lake Erie."

The historic structure on South Bass Island closed after falling granite shuttered it for repairs three years ago. The monument has seen more than 9,300 visitors since it reopened on July 3 -- an average of 1,000 visitors a day.

"It is pretty comparable to the same week [in previous years], and we actually think it's a little higher because we had a few hours where we had to close because of storms," said monument spokesman Nichole Fifer. "We have lightning rods on the observation deck -- and if those are humming, we can't go up -- which shows me we probably would be elevated on the numbers."

The monument closed down for a few hours on opening day and again when storms passed through July 5. Ms. Fifer said the park reduced its touring hours of the column by two hours a day, and still had the same number of visitors in the shortened time-frame.

PHOTO GALLERY: Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

Inez Shirer of Wooster, Ohio, chose her 71st birthday Thursday to check out the monument and its surrounding park and visitor center.

"We had never been to Put-in-Bay, but I had seen things about the monument, so when my husband asked me today what I wanted to do, I said let's head out to Put-in-Bay," she said.

The monument draws an average of 100,000 visitors a year. More than 9,300 have visited since July 3. The monument draws an average of 100,000 visitors a year. More than 9,300 have visited since July 3.
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She and her husband, Larry, had no regrets about the two-hour trip.

"It was just absolutely beautiful on top, the view," she said.

The three-year Perry restoration project was scheduled to be completed for the monument's reopening at the end of July, but crews finished early and were able to open for the Fourth of July holiday.

The 352-foot-high column, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year, was built in 1913 as a commemoration to Commodore Oliver Hazzard Perry's victory against the British in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, as well as the long-lasting peace among the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. It sits about five miles from the longest undefended border in the world.

The monument is a key piece in the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 and Battle of Lake Erie, and will celebrate the birthday of its namesake commodore Aug. 18-19 that will include historic encampments, and musket and cannon firing demonstrations. Additionally, a Commodore Perry interpreter will give personal accounts of who the commodore was and take photos with visitors.

Perry's is the third-tallest national monument behind the Washington Monument at 555 feet and the St. Louis Gateway Arch at 630 feet.

In June, 2006, a 500-pound piece of granite fell from the observation deck, and officials closed the international memorial for about two months while crews placed a fence around the area and investigated the damage. The monument closed again in 2009 when money became available for the restoration, and remained closed until last week, Ms. Fifer said.

The park received about $5 million in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and also used an unspecified amount of National Park Service money as well, Ms. Fifer said.

Inez Shirer and her husband, Larry, of Wooster, Ohio, admire the view of Lake Erie from atop the 352-foot monument at Put-in-Bay. Inez Shirer and her husband, Larry, of Wooster, Ohio, admire the view of Lake Erie from atop the 352-foot monument at Put-in-Bay.
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An additional project that will begin in August and will not affect tours is restoration of the upper plaza where visitors enter the column to be taken to the top. The surface needs to be evened out, and the monument also needs to undergo a complete replacement of the concrete structures underneath it and installation of a new waterproofing membrane inside the column that keeps moisture from seeping into the stone structure, Ms. Fifer said.

"We do not have an exact cost estimate but we know that it will be in the millions of dollars as the work we had done on the observation deck cost over $5 million. We will do some fund-raising to help with the effort but we will need state and federal support for full restoration," she said.

Monument Superintendent Blanca Stransky said a reopening celebration was held Wednesday night to reacquaint visitors with the monument and also to explain what still has to be done. More than 700 took free tours during the event, she said.

Ms. Fifer said that except for the recent three-year restoration and the upcoming upper plaza and water membrane replacement project in August, "there hasn't been any major restoration between the building of the structure and now, so you are talking 100 years of wear and tear."

Contact Roberta Redfern at: rredfern@theblade.com, or 419-724-6081.



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