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Full restoration for Columbus statue after years of vandalism

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A statue of Christopher Columbus that sat on Seattle’s waterfront for decades has a new home: a city-owned warehouse on West Marginal Way.

The 1,200-pound bronze figure was brought to the building to be restored after years of vandalism at the hands of protesters who believe the explorer is a symbol of “colonialism, imperialism and genocide.”

Tiffany Hedrick, a conservation technician for the city of Seattle, has worked diligently to remove “unidentifiable paint, which was similar in consistency to road paint” that covered the majority of his body. She has now begun a repatination process to give the statue back some of the color it lost.

“After severe vandalism, we had to sandblast the entire surface,” Hedrick said. “You can see that he’s been brought down to the basic state of the metal.”

The statue was donated to the city’s art collection by the Italian-American Club in 1978, and since that time has sat on Seattle’s Waterfront Park between piers 57 and 59.

Hedrick said the statue could not be restored on location because of environmental concerns.

Calandra Childers, a spokesperson for the Office of Arts & Culture, said the city attempted to protect the statue from vandalism in 2009 by placing a crate around it on Columbus Day of that year.

“We put a big box around him, essentially, on the pier and had signage saying he’s being crated just for Columbus Day and that was to protect him from that paint,” Childers said. “And that worked for a couple of years and then unfortunately some people broke into the crate in 2011 and he had paint poured on him again.”

The city decided to remove the statue prior to Columbus Day 2012 to avoid further damage.

“I understand that it happens across the country, that there’s a number of Christopher Columbus statues that have been hit and our goal here is really just to keep him safe,” Childers said.

According to Childers, a full restoration of the piece will cost the city around $1,000 plus labor.

Once the statue is removed from the warehouse, it will be placed at a temporary location until planned construction on the waterfront is complete. Childers said the city will work with the community where it is placed to prevent damage in the future.

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