HERMON, Maine — As curious locals and passing motorists watched, employees of Thomas DiCenzo Inc. and its subcontractors undertook the painstaking task of removing the town’s Soldier’s Monument from Hermon Corner, the spot it has occupied since it was erected in 1901.
The monument was to be reinstalled Thursday at its new home at Hermon Veterans Memorial Park, located in front of Hermon Elementary School. The veterans park houses another stone monument — dedicated to those who are serving or have served in the military — as well as a gazebo.
The unusual sight of a crane, flatbed and other heavy machinery at Hermon Corner drew a cluster of spectators, many of whom brought cameras to document history in the making — or unmaking, as it were.
The move is the result of several years worth of discussion as well as a lengthy decision-making process that included public meetings and a survey, Town Manager Clinton Deschene said over the summer.
Residents when they voted 610-526 in favor of relocating the monument, erected in honor of the town’s Civil War veterans, to the memorial park. made the final decision in June
Though controversial, the repositioning is expected to help simplify planned improvements at the intersection of Billings Road and Route 2, where the monument now stands, Deschene noted.
Ken Gray, a Korean War veteran who belongs to the American Legion, stopped by to document the move with his camera. Gray, who has lived in Hermon since 1944, said he was among the Hermon residents who opposed the monument’s relocation.
“It’s been here for 100 years, and I think they could have built the road around it,” he said. “Well, if it’s going to go someplace, [the veterans park] is the best place for it, I guess.
“I just don’t want to see it break,” he said while watching workers preparing to take it apart.
Fred Emerson, whose family has lived in Hermon for generations, remembers his father talking about the monument. He said the monument has served as a local reference point for decades.
Carroll Pickard, 80, who grew up on Pleasant Hill, used to attend the Light School, located within view of the monument.
“In these modern times, it’s right plumb in the way,” he said when asked how he felt about the move. “But I think that [at the new site] they’ve got a lot of room.”
The disassembly of the monument, which consists of six pieces, was a nearly six-hour operation, according to Chris Delmonaco of Thomas DiCenzo’s Hermon office .
He said that over the years the company has moved many a large item, including boulders, but Wednesday marked the first time it has been called upon to move something as “dainty” as a more than 110-year-old Civil War memorial.
“The problem was that we didn’t know how it was put together,” he said. After speculating that the monument was held together by metal rods or mortar, workers discovered that only layers of lead separated its sections, meaning that the weight of the monument’s piece kept it in place through the decades.
Access to modern moving equipment made the job easier than it would have been in 1901, Delmonaco said.
“I can’t imagine how they got [the top section] up there” in the days before cranes were invented, he said.
Because the job called for expertise in stonework, Delmonaco’s company called in Freshwater Stone of Orland. The new foundation for the monument was poured last month by Jimmy’s Concrete of Orrington, he said.
Delmonaco said the Orland stoneworkers brought the base of the piece back to their workshop to slice off the piece’s uneven bottom, which worked well when it was set into the ground but must be made level before it is set on its new concrete foundation.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story had Fred Emerson’s name incorrect.