PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —Rising 500 feet above street level the herculean sculpture of William Penn–a hollow bronze statue weighing 53,000 pounds–was due for his once-in-a-decade spa treatment.
The charter he carries is exact, and detailed down to the word. His hand, crafted to precision. But this perch, high above Philadelphia City Hall takes its toll.
“The corrosion gets inside of those tiny pits and it gets in there and it’s this sort of accelerated cycle,” said Philadelphia Public Art Director, Margot Berg.
Every 10 years the city contracts with New Jersey company Moorland Studios to clean Billy Penn, from shoe to brim.
A laser is used to clean the many pits and crevasses, and then the copper surface is heated.
“Heating up the surface allows the bronze to absorb the wax,” said Berg.
All that work is done by hand.
The winds were whipping as CBS3’s Joe Holden got up close and personal with Mr. Penn. The scaffolding had a slight sway. The statue–prominent and iconic–was hoisted into place piece by piece, in 1892. Eight bolts hold him down.
Fun fact: the inside of Billy Penn is entirely hollow. You can climb down him through a system of ladders.
Inside the statue there are signatures of men and women who have worked on the statue over the years. One is from 1899.
Such a throwback, if you will, from all those years ago, reminds workers of the significance and pride of this landmark.
“It’s important to do our very best to care for these pieces,” said Berg.
The statue that commands the city’s central spot, one that has been known to curse our city’s professional teams from time to time–will have a new shine in a few weeks.
“We hope that 125 years from now, people will be able to come up and see it,” Berg says.