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George Washington monument renovation gets underway

Crews temporarily remove the George Washington Memorial located near 51st Street and King Drive on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs began repairs to the century-old statue comprised of more than 30 individual pieces. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

The 112-year-old George Washington statue adjacent to Washington Park is getting a much-needed bath.

And even after three months of work, the bronze statue will still be green.

“I’m not aware he’s ever been cleaned or renovated,” said Nathan Mason, curator of exhibits and public art at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Work to restore the statue and move the monument out of harm’s way on the northwest corner of 51st Street and Martin Luther King Drive got underway Thursday.

The monument has been hit by cars at the bend in southbound Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

“Whatever hit that corner was not light,” Mason said, pointing to a sizable chip in the monument’s granite base.

As a result, Washington and his horse will move about 25 feet to the south in the hopes of creating a buffer between the statue and traffic, said Jenelle Hill, a civil engineer for the Department of Transportation.

GalleryThe pins were lifted from the horse’s feet Thursday morning before a crew detached the 8,200-pound statue from its base.

“It’s really a simple process,” Hill said as a crane gently lifted the swaying statue and placed it inside fencing for renovation.

The statue must be cleaned before corrosion inhibitors, color-evening pigment and layers of acrylic coating can be applied, said Andrzej Dajnowski, director of Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio Inc., who is overseeing the restoration.

“If it rains, it will be a huge problem,” said Dajnowski. The statue’s restoration will be done entirely outside.

Dajnowski hopes to construct a roof over the statue for limited protection.

Washington’s renovation and reinstallation is expected to cost $1 million, Hill said. The work should be finished by Veterans Day.