WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The man restoring Waterbury’s beheaded Christopher Columbus statue gave News 8 an exclusive behind the scenes look at his workshop and the process Thursday.
Randall Nelson has restored many statues and monuments across the country over the last 30 years. He tells News 8 he has never been involved in a project that carried so much controversy and political weight.
He’s fixing the face of the statue that was beheaded back on the 4th of July. During the vandalism, the nose was broken off. To him, he was hired to do a job and that’s his main mission — to get it done and not think about the other issues involved with it.
“That’s like asking a carpenter if he’s thinking about the politics of the owner of the house he’s building,” he said.
Police say, Brandon Ambrose of Port Chester, NY, climbed to the top of the statue and hammered off the head overnight into the early hours of July 4th. He was seen on surveillance video. But, police say they caught him when he allegedly tried to sell the nose, which had broken off of the statue, to an undercover member of the police department.
Nelson has discovered trying to rebuild a nose and attach it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
“I had to find another piece of stone that was a duplicate — the exact same type of stone,” he said.
As for the other parts of the smashed up face…
“There were quite a few broken chunks that I fit back in,” he said. “I had to figure out where they went and get them back into place. Once I got those done, the pieces that were missing, I had to fill in those details using patching cement.”
Waterbury’s Italian-American community is paying for the statue to be fixed at no cost to the city. An online effort has raised over $5,000 so far. They see it as a source of pride. In the mid-’80s, Italian-American groups donated the statue to the city as a way to thank Waterbury for being welcoming to immigrant populations.
Many people of color in Waterbury see the statue as a racist symbol and they’ve held several recent protests in front of it.
“The way that the Native Americans — the land was taken from them — basically stolen,” said Athena Wagner of Waterbury.
Protesters have said they want the statue gone from in front of City Hall.
Nelson says he has about a week left of work repairing the face of the statue and then sometime after that he’ll re-attach the head.
Waterbury voters will decide the fate of the statue in November at the ballot box as a referendum.