Turners Falls’ Spinner statue getting a makeover

  • Jack Nelson, left, and Patrick Flanagan lower the Spinner statue onto a specially designed cart with the help of the Montague Department of Public Works to transport the statue to Nelson’s home studio for refurbishing. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Spinner statue from Spinner Park in Turners Falls will be refurbished while the park is under construction this summer. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Spinner Park is expected to be closed by mid-June for construction, and work will likely be substantially done by late summer or early fall. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2020 1:43:26 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Passersby might notice there is something missing from Spinner Park.

That’s because the Spinner statue was taken away Tuesday morning to be refurbished this summer, while Spinner Park is closed for its first renovation since 1985. The park is expected to be closed by mid-June for construction, and will likely be substantially done by late summer or early fall, said Town Planner Walter Ramsey.

Jack Nelson, a sculptor who lives in Turners Falls and who formerly taught in Northfield Mount Hermon School’s art department, will refurbish the Spinner statue in his home studio. Nelson said he’s collaborating with RiverCulture, the town’s cultural programming department, to figure out what the statue would have looked like when it was new, and how best to restore it. The goal is to make it look as close to its original form as possible.

The intention of the Spinner statue has always been to honor Montague’s industrial past, and especially to acknowledge the women who worked in the mills, said RiverCulture Director Suzanne LoManto.

The statue is made of cast iron, Nelson said. Originally it would have been a shade of black, though it’s hard to tell now. Over the years since the town bought it in the 1980s, layers and layers of paint have been added, obscuring fine details of the metalwork and changing its overall look.

“I want it to reflect its origin and what cast iron can be,” Nelson said.

The Spinner is based on a 19th-century mold by a French sculptor. But this statue itself is probably not quite that old. LoManto said it was cast in a foundry in Alabama, probably in the early 1980s, soon before the town bought it.

To determine what it might have looked like when it was new, Nelson and RiverCulture will probably be using old photos of the statue, and possibly also considering photos of other statues from the same foundry, LoManto said.

“We’re going to piece together our very best version of what she can be,” she said.

From that research, and from consulting with chemical engineers, Nelson will decide the best method for removing the paint and for re-coating the cast iron, he said.

This refurbishing is part of a larger redesign of Spinner Park. The most noticeable difference in the new design will be the position of the statue, which is being moved back about 9 feet to the rear of the park, rather than at the center as it is now.

Construction work this summer will involve replacing crumbling walls with more durable granite, adding a 2-foot wall around the park, replacing burnt out lighting and bringing the park up to modern accessibility codes.

Ramsey said the whole project — including the refurbishment of the statue is worth about $280,000, and is covered by a federal Community Development Block Grant.

Like the construction, the statue’s refurbishment is also expected to be done by the fall at the latest. However, LoManto said, if it is too close to winter by then, the town may consider waiting until spring to reinstall the statue.

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.

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