AUBURN – A pair of iconic eagles that have stood watch for more than 50 years at the main gate to Auburn University, at Toomer’s Corner, were placed back on their pedestals on Friday, April 13, after having been restored to their original stateliness with the assistance of the Auburn University Facilities Management staff and a local company which manages restoration projects.
With a missing beak on one and a damaged wing on the other, the weathered statues were removed from their brick pedestals in November. They have been repaired by The Lathan Company Inc., a Mobile-based firm specializing in the historic preservation of landmark structures and buildings
“I am extremely happy with the way the eagles turned out,” said Lloyd Albert, Facilities Management Maintenance director and overseer of the project. “We were very fortunate to work with a local company with this kind of experience and with such a talented staff. They did such a nice job with the reconstruction that I couldn’t even tell at first which repairs were made to each of them.”
The eagles, estimated to weigh from 350 to 400 pounds each, were transferred to Lathan’s Washington D.C., office where stone carving experts spent more than 200 hours of hands-on restoration and cleaning work, including the removal of an unexpected layer of red aerosol spray paint. The paint had been applied to each bird’s breast and later covered by masonry latex paint.
Made of marble, the stone for the eagles appears to have come from Sylacauga, Ala., said Lathan project manager Anthony Miller, who has been in the stone restoration profession for 30 years and is also the project manager for the exterior restoration of all stone and brick work for the Smithsonian Arts and Industry Building.
“We believe it may be Sylacauga because it is a white marble and it (the quarry specializing in white marble) is located only 45 miles away,” said Miller.
Miller estimates the eagles to have been sculpted in the early 1960s. This time period concurs with a statement made by writer Hal Smith in the January 10, 2012, Auburn Magazine that said “shortly after Auburn Polytechnic Institute was renamed Auburn University (in 1960), two marble eagles replaced the original stone spheres” and on “September 22, 1961, the Plainsman reported alumnus W.C. ‘Red’ Sugg had arranged for the gift.”
“I love the rich tradition of Toomer’s Corner and am so glad to have had this opportunity to work with Auburn University and its facilities management staff in the preservation of these eagles and of this historic area of campus,” said Jerry Lathan, founder and CEO of The Lathan Company Inc.
The total cost for the eagle restoration project was $20,000 and was funded from a deferred maintenance account by Auburn University Facilities Management.