Restoration of the statue of Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutch settler considered Jersey City’s founding father, began on Aug. 12 after the city moved it to storage at The Beacon housing development, formerly the old Jersey City Medical Center.
The move represents the first phase of plans to return the statue to its original site in Bergen Square, where it once stood for almost 100 years. Its removal in Feb 2010 by the Board of Education and Hudson County Community College stirred up considerable controversy.
The statue was removed at the time to make way for a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. near the Martin Luther King elementary school (School 11). But that new statue never materialized.
“We are moving Mr. Stuyvesant to where he belongs.” – Mayor Jeremiah Healy
“The statue of Peter Stuyvesant is an important part of Jersey City’s history and pride,” said Mayor Jerramiah Healy. “Restoring the statue and returning it to its original location is vital to preserving our history. It is also my hope that, together with the efforts of my administration, the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, the Jersey City Board of Education and Hudson County Community College, we can accomplish this.”
“Old timers and newcomers can align themselves around this monument,” said Bob Leach, Director of the Jersey City Historical Project, who unearthed the original 1913 Peter Stuyvesant unveiling program that helped prove city ownership.
John Burns of Burns Brothers, a representative of the Beacon, and Leach signed the Bill of Lading to officially acknowledge receipt.
Returning to site of origin: Bergen Square
“Bergen Square was the heart of the community,” said John Hallahan of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy. “This statue bridges the gap from the great foundation and the city of today,” he added.
Hallahan and members of the Conservancy worked with the City to return the Stuyvesant statue to the original site in front of Martin Luther King Jr., School No. 11 at the corner of Bergen and Academy Avenues near Journal Square. The statue, conceived in 1910, recognized the 250th anniversary of the village of Bergen, the first permanent municipality in the state, a Dutch-held, 17th-century colony of New Netherland governed by General Stuyvesant from 1647 to 1664. The Dutch officially unveiled the statue in 1913.
“We are moving Mr. Stuyvesant to where he belongs,” said Healy.
A sick patient admitted to historic hospital
George Filopoulos of The Beacon agreed to house Stuyvesant in a former ambulance garage, which provides ample space and cool, dry temperatures providing good conditions for restoration. The Beacon is now a residential building with luxury lofts and condos and has undergone considerable preservation by Ulana Zakalak of Zakalak Restoration Arts, who is undertaking the statue’s restoration. She is known for her work on the Atlas in Rockefeller Center.
Zakalak and her partner Johnny Hilares estimate restoration will take between 30 to 60 days.
“The first thing is to look at the statue in a very careful manner. We will examine it square inch by square inch” said Hilares.
After the analysis, the team will clean it, arrest bronze disease in the folds of Stuyvesant’s cape, and preserve it for future generations.
“Pollutants won’t affect his bronze again,” said Zakalak.
Steps on the path home
Maryanne Kelleher and Cliff Perkins of Cultural Affairs have worked on the “Bring Him Home Project,” which involved fundraising and arranging the move.
Restoration is the first step along the path; the second phase involves creating a pedestal resembling the original base of the monument that was destroyed in the 1960s. Mayor Healy seeks public input on this phase of the project and hopes for help from Hudson County Community College and the Board of Education to accomplish this last step. The town is also looking for donations to help move the project to completion.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.