Civic duty for a civil memorial

Witnessing the soiling and steady decline of our city’s monuments is agonizing for anyone invested in his or her community. We would all struggle to watch something beautiful we made fall into disrepair.

It is particularly distressing if that monument is of your own creation.

For Brandon Adams, a New Orleans-based landscape architect, that feeling motivated him to act.

About four years ago, Adams designed a civil rights memorial in New Orleans, at the intersection of Claiborne and Jackson Avenues. 

Since then, the memorial (known locally as the Memorial to Nine on Claiborne) has darkened with carbon, general dirt and grime. “It’s probably one of the busiest streets in New Orleans,” Adams said.

The circular structure, comprised of precast concrete panels with engraved text, was in serious need of a good cleaning.

“When you design something that has meaning to the community, you don’t want to see it degrade or get dirty.”

- Brandon Adams, Perez APC

“I just decided I’m going to do this myself,” said Adams, the head landscape architect for architecture firm Perez APC in New Orleans.

His first call was to long-time PROSOCO product rep Bob Holmes of R.K. Holmes Co., knowing that he’d have the right product recommendation to clean the memorial and restore it to its original condition.

Not only did Holmes know which products would work for this particular climate, substrate and stain, he also provided the product at no cost, and offered his own elbow grease to help get the job done.

The only necessities left were water, electricity and equipment, which Adams also managed.

“I was able to get the Parks and Parkways Department to bring a water tank, and I went down to a Home Depot a few blocks away and rented an electric generator,” he said.

Using a pump-up sprayer and a power-washer that Holmes brought down to New Orleans from his homebase in Texas, the two spent about three hours cleaning the stone memorial with PROSOCO’s ReKlaim Cleaner, formulated especially to remove biological and atmospheric staining from masonry in humid environments.

“We just did one application, and I think it probably took us a little over three hours,” Adams said. “It turned out great.”

Holmes went back the next day to apply PROSOCO’s Siloxane WB Concentrate, a water repellent to protect the memorial from reoccurring, water-related stains and deterioration.

For Adams, the manhours were well worth the result.

“When you design something that has meaning to the community, you don’t want to see it degrade or get dirty,” he said. “You want to see it nice and clean. So I said I’m just going to do it.”

A clean aesthetic will allow the memorial to return to its original purpose – honoring nine leaders who lost their lives during the civil rights movement in the U.S.

Adams’ daughter, Cassady Adams, was studying political science at Tulane University in New Orleans when he designed the memorial, and she did the research for each of the nine memorialized activists and wrote their stories which appear on the memorial.

“It had a lot of meaning because I’m pretty big into civil rights, so it meant something to me,” Adams said. “And I hope it meant something to the people.”

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