I took these photographs on Friday October 11, 2013. This monument had never been sand blasted in its 84 year history.
Note the broken corner of the cairn main pedestal at the front right.
The Vespra Boys is made up of three very different materials: granite field stones, concrete mortar and marble.
Another view with the broken urn base at the left back. The MNR-owned heritage-designated building in the back is the original park office.
Each material has it’s own much different properties such as porosity, hardness, strength, etc.
Detail of broken urn base.
One of the key heritage preservation principles is to try to do no harm. Start with the mildest, least destructive means to the stated, justifiable end.
Note how the years of patina soak so deeply in the mortar. To get a consistent “new look” the mortar would have to be blasted up to one inch deep.
I was told that the Ministry of Natural Resources considers any of their buildings that are over 50 years old to be “heritage” and extreme caution must be taken. I do not know if those standards apply to community cultural assets that they have legal stewardship for.
Front: The softest material (white marble) is easily destroyed with silica sand. The text is almost unreadable now. The contrast between the 3 media is lost. Many of the stones have horizontal etch marks now. Note how the light orange, protective patina has been destroyed. When marble is polished it changes the physical properties of its surface. By sand lasting the raised and relief areas, the contrast is lost. The sharpness of the relief lettering is much less.
Over the years, objects as well as people acquire character. Patina is a much-valued characteristic by many people that appreciate things that have endured. In stone, sand blasting destroys this highly-prized protective layer; the earned look and feel of a well-worn artifact. The cold-hard facts are that etched monuments will likely have more structural problems in the future than if it were more gently treated. The Ontario Heritage Trust talks of The Conservation Cycle.
The before picture: In 2013, Major John R. Fisher took these photographs in support of the registration to the Department of Defence of the Vespra Boys cairn. There are less than 6,700 of these nationally-registered war memorials in Canada in 2013. It’s magnificent as it was and precisely how the builders envisioned it in 1929, I believe. Note the irregular patina that is appropriate for its age and nature and the sharpness of the relief edges.
Sand blasting is known to radically alter the appearance, life and strength of materials. it is the most aggressive form of abrasive cleaning and is usually the last method used.
The after picture: The field stone/mortar joints have been opened up for water to freeze and thaw. There are only surface cracks evident over the whole monument. There is no safety issue. The symbol may indicate the builders’ were concerned in pleasing an entity other then their own ego.
Silica sand appears to be the material used against the Vespra Boys centotaph. There are chips of mortar and stone all over the grass.
There are different grades of silica sand available. The most destructive are the cheapest. There are bits and pieces of stones, mortar and sand 2 to 3 metres away from the cairn.
Sand blasting is classified as a form of abrasive blasting.
Abrasive blasting is the operation of forcibly propelling a stream of abrasive material against a surface under high pressure to smooth a rough surface, roughen a smooth surface, shape a surface, or remove surface contaminants. A pressurized fluid, typically air, or a centrifugal wheel is used to propel the blasting material (often called the media). The first abrasive blasting process was patented by Benjamin Chew Tilghman on 18 October 1870.
There are several variants of the process, such as bead blasting, sand blasting, sodablasting, and shot blasting.
Background: At a meeting at the site arranged by Ontario Parks Zone Manager Mr. Ken Lacroix this summer, I opposed the use of chemicals being applied and then having it power blasted with high pressure water. This elicited a very strong reaction by a representative of Ian Taylor’s, Friends of Springwater Park. I was not informed of any plans to alter the monument although I take Minister David Orazietti at his word when he said he appreciates my interest in the park.
Mr. Taylor appears to be taking credit for this “restoration” project on his Facebook page (see Sept 29th). He also thanks his good friends Patrick Brown Barrie MP, Ms. Nancy Bigelow, Ken Lacroix, Park Superintendent Scott Thomas, Monument Restoration Ltd., Barrie Legion 147 and Elmvale Legion 262.
CFB Borden, the Department of National Defence, Springwater Township and City Barrie Heritage Committees, Camp Nibi grandmothers/occupiers or the families of the 18 WWI dead appear not to have been consulted, accommodated or included in his thanks.
I have asked the Ministry of Natural Resources to secure the site and not allow any further work until more is known about some may consider a pre-meditated assault on heritage on what is claimed to be protected Ontario land.