Replicas of historic eagles installed at newly renovated Toomer’s Corner

Replicas of the historic stone eagles have been installed at the newly renovated Samford Park at Toomer's Corner.AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Capping a five-month renovation of Samford Park at Toomer’s Corner, workers today placed two stone eagles atop the gates marking the entrance to Auburn University.

The eagles are replicas of the two marble statues that adorned the gates for more than 50 years. The original statues were displayed inside Samford Hall this summer, away from the elements that have taken their toll over the years.

“They are showing a lot of wear from exposure to the weather,” said Ron Booth, executive director of facilities operations. “By moving them inside, we can better protect them and create displays that allow for viewing up close.”

A permanent location for the statues has not been determined, but it is likely they will return in Samford Hall’s first floor lobby through the fall, Booth said.

Two years ago, the statues were restored by stone-carving experts at The Lathan Company Inc. in Washington, D.C. After the restoration project was completed, the eagles were returned to the Corner April 13, 2012.

As renovations to Samford Park at Toomer’s Corner began in March, the statues were removed again and stored on campus for safekeeping. In order to preserve the historic sculptures, Gary Wagoner, chair of Auburn’s Department of Art in the College of Liberal Arts, was approached in June to recast the eagles.

“The molding process was fairly complex, as the originals were carved from marble and not designed with casting in mind,” Wagoner said. “That’s to say there were undercuts and surface details that required a carefully designed mold to capture all the detail and to release from the originals.”

Wagoner used a silicone rubber mold, which was designed to transfer the intricacies and subtle textures from the original sculptures and was flexible enough to accommodate undercuts. A plaster mold was also used for rigidity and strength.

“The silicone mold compound is ideal for working with irreplaceable historical originals,” Wagoner said. “It doesn’t require sealing the stone or using a release agent like some mold-making materials, so there’s no damage done to the surfaces in its use. We used the utmost care in moving and handling the eagles.”

Wagoner and his assistant in the project, Jon Byler, are both artists and are accustomed to giving great attention to detail.

“We recognized that these objects have a great history at Auburn, and that there must not be a loss of refinement and detail in the replication,” Wagoner said. “Their history – the carved texture from the original artist’s tools and the weathered surfaces – is all still there to be observed.”

(Written by Tori Rivers.)

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