Push for King Louis XVI statue’s restoration in Louisville comes as $27k removal cost is revealed

The 9-ton reminder of how Louisville got its name is still sitting in storage 60 days after it was removed from its home on 6th Street and Jefferson Street.
Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 8:24 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The King Louis XVI statue, the 9-ton reminder of how Louisville got its name, is still sitting in storage 60 days after it was removed from its home on 6th Street and Jefferson Street in downtown Louisville.

The statue was removed in September, and on Tuesday WAVE 3 News obtained a copy of the contract between the city and Padgett, Inc. a company based in New Albany, Indiana.

The contract was agreed upon on Aug. 13 and is priced at $27,334.50.

The scope of work includes, among other details, “rig and load the statue onto our trailer. The statue will be moved to [a] storage area and offloaded for safekeeping.”

As part of the contract, the city wrote to justify the need for the project.

It reads:

"Louisville Metro leadership has identified an urgent need to remove the King Louis XVI statue currently located at 6th and Jefferson. The statue has already sustained significant damage - including spray paint vandalism, abrasion from power washing, and breakage on one of the figure’s arms and foot - during protest-related events beginning in late May 2020.

Due to the sensitive marble material, significant weight, and vulnerability (there are joint points and previous cracks and repairs throughout the statue), it is necessary to hire a specialized contractor to perform the work and ensure both public safety and the safe removal of the statue itself. Padgett offers all services within one contractor, including building a customized steel frame to safely lift the statue, rigging and crane services, and transportation of the statue. the contractor has a proven record of performing the required work with precision and efficiency."

The statue’s departure from downtown is disheartening for Dr. Tom Owen.

“Well, obviously I miss it,” Owen said.

Owen is a Louisville historian and spends time guiding people on tours of downtown Louisville. He told WAVE 3 News he understands the current social climate in the city, and what a statue like Louis XVI may portray, but said without him standing on Jefferson Street, downtown has lost some luster.

“I understand the hot dynamic of our current time, but I’m hopeful that we will be able to have a [Thomas] Jefferson [statue] that remains and a king that returns," Owen said.

Councilman Kevin Kramer hopes to see the statue back downtown as well.

On Monday, Kramer filed a resolution requesting Mayor Fischer to repair, restore and reinstall the King Louis statue to its original location on 6th and Jefferson Streets.

“It seems to be the plan," Kramer said. “I’m told that’s the plan to put it back where it was. We will go ahead with the resolution just to make it clear that we understand that’s what being talked about. We just want to make sure that it’s on record somewhere that the goal is to get it back to that location.”

According to a city spokesperson, the cost to restore and return Louis to downtown Louisville will likely be more expensive than the cost to remove him.

A representative from Louisville Forward told WAVE 3 News in an email, “The initial assessment has been completed and found the statue has ‘extensive damage.’ We are reaching out to regional conservators for additional assessment and repair estimates. Beyond that, there are no plans at this point regarding the future King Louie’s statue. It will remain in storage.”

The original damage assessment, completed by Falls Art Foundry, reads as follows:

“The extensive damage to the King Louie comes in three different forms. First, the exposure to weather from being displayed outside. Second, the paint applied. And, third, the physical removal of the arm and other pieces. I will discuss each a little and how they interact. Marble is not suitable for outdoor display. As marble is exposed to weather the surface deteriorates. While the overall appearance remains consistent, the surface becomes porous with the texture of sandstone. The texture grows quicker the longer the exposure persists. Water soaks in the porous surface exaggerating the negative effects of the freeze thaw cycle of our climate which concrete cracks. The cracks evident in the piece show instability in the entire form. The level of instability is not easily ascertained, but outdoors it should not be considered safe. Paint removal is made more difficult due to the porosity of the surface from outdoor exposure. The usual solvents used to remove paint will possibly work, but the danger remains that the paint will work further into the piece. As a bronze sculpture specialist, I would defer to a professional stone conservator. However, any work done by the city to remove the paint should not include heat or a pressure washer. Both will only further the damage to the surface. Replacing the arm and other modest recreation is straightforward and possible. But, due to the instability of the piece, I would recommend that it be indoors and away from public access. After talking with my partners, we have decided it best to not take this work on ourselves. It would be in the interest of the city to use a stone conservator to complete this work. As it is in our personal and professional interests, I will continue to search for the best solutions for this problem and an appropriate vendor of these services.”

Metro Council President David James said the decision to return the statue to downtown is likely a multi-faceted conversation.

“I believe the issue is going to be what is the cost to move the statue back, what is the cost to restore it, and what is the cost to be able to protect it," James said. "And we have to find out what all those procedures are, what the process is, and then we’ll have to determine where we are financially with that.”

For now, it seems as the former king may have to wait a little longer to learn of his fate. Kramer hopes that fate is to eventually stand again at 6th and Jefferson Streets.

“He did us quite a favor and it seems most appropriate that we would appreciate and honor him at that location," Kramer said.

The contract documents showing the purchase of the statue’s removal can be viewed below.

1 by WAVE 3 News on Scribd

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