AUBURN — It’s hot working under the July sun for memorial restoration expert Bruce Lane, atop the scaffolding just down from Edward Little High School this week.

“I try and get started in the morning,” he said. “The sun gets so hot by 2 p.m. I can deal with it now, but later in the afternoon, it starts beating on you. It gets hard to breathe.”

But Lane won’t be the only one getting a tan.

When he’s done scraping, treating and refinishing the bronze statue of Auburn lawyer and philanthropist Edward Little, the green patina will be gone and the sculpture will be restored to the bronze glory it had in 1877, when it was first erected.

“We are stripping the bronze, getting rid of all the oxidation and the bronze disease that’s in there,” Lane said Wednesday. “There are little spots you have to dig out. Once you get down to the raw bronze, it gets a new patina and then you clear-coat it. That’s what protects it.”

The work is a culmination of more than three years of planning and 18 months of fundraising. Former Edward Little High School Principal Jim Miller said the work is being paid with $22,000 in donations.

“We got many sources,” Miller said. Donations ranged from $5 to $100 to $1,000, he said. They came from individuals and groups, including the graduating classes of 1951, 1963 and 1965.

“It’s a bunch,” Miller said. “We have enough money.”

In all, the bronze work will cost about $17,000 with another $5,000 to put the granite “Edward Little High School” sign on a pedestal.

Lane said that work was finished last week and the sign, moved from its original location to Harris Street when the high school relocated, is now more prominently displayed.

It’s the first time the sculpture has been treated in years, Lane said.

“The whole process should take seven days,” Lane said. “We dug footings for the sign, got a crane to move that. Now I’m working on the statue and when I’m done with that, I’ll move down to the pedestal.

Lane said that after he cleans the sign and the graffiti on the pedestal, he’ll be finished. 

He recommended that the school recoat the sculpture every two years.

“If you maintain this, it’ll be fine forever,” he said. “If you don’t, it’ll be good for 25 years before it starts to break down. But it’s cheaper to maintain.”

Edward Little was born in 1773 and died in 1849, living much of his life in Auburn. He donated the land and money to build the Lewiston Falls Academy in 1834 at Academy and Main streets. The school was later renamed after him and the statue placed in his honor. The school and the statue moved to Harris street in 1961.

Former Auburn Economic Development Specialist Alan Manoian called the statue a historic masterpiece and world-class work of art.

It was created by former Sabattus resident and Bates College student Franklin Simmons, an important sculptor at the time. Simmons’ other works include portrait medallions of Abraham Lincoln, a statue of Ulysses S. Grant in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., and multiple pieces in museums around the country.

Lane said there’s one other Simmons piece he has his eye on — the 1868 Civil War Veterans Monument in Kennedy Park in Lewiston.

“I’d really like to do that one,” he said. “I appraised that one and gave them a price, but I think they’re waiting to see how this one comes out.”

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Staff Writer Bonnie Washuk contributed to this story.

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