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Eagle on top of Hurlbut Memorial Gate struck by lightning, destroyed

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Though it might be possible to recreate it

An ornate limestone memorial with a soaring eagle on top Courtesy of Quinn Evans Architects

There’s a lot to appreciate about the Hurlbut Memorial Gate just off East Jefferson Avenue at Cadillac Boulevard. Unfortunately, one of those features will no longer be the eagle depicted with outstretched wings adorning the top of the monument. At least for the time being.

During an August 18 storm, the stone eagle was believed to have been struck by lightning. It subsequently fell off the monument and hit the ground, shattering into pieces.

The memorial once served as the entrance to the Water Works Park, where today the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) operates a treatment facility.

“GLWA is working to gather all of the pieces and is committed to attempting to restoring the eagle to the top of the gate, whether through restoration or re-fabrication,” Michelle Zdrodowski, chief public affairs officer for the GLWA, told Curbed Detroit by email. “More details will be provided once all due diligence is done.”

A close-up of the eagle, which has hundreds of carved feathers Quinn Evans Architects

According to Historic Detroit, The Hurlbut Memorial Gate is named for Chauncey Hurlbut, who left his estate to the Water Works Park after he died in 1885. Finished in 1894, the memorial is a beautiful example of the Beaux Arts style and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It’s made out of limestone and, in addition to the eagle, is adorned with arches, human figures, lions heads, horses, shells, and other impressive carvings.

A substantial restoration of the memorial, completed in 2007, repaired and replaced damaged limestone blocks, including the eagle itself. The whole project cost over $600,000.

That same restoration may be what helps save the eagle now. Quinn Evans Architects, which undertook the restoration, did a 3D laser scan of the memorial. Brandon Friske, a project architect at Quinn Evans, says that a future mason, CNC machine, or 3D printer could recreate the eagle using its 3D mesh.

“There’s a variety of options for what you can do with that data,” Friske says. It also wouldn’t be the first time the architecture firm recreated an object on a historic building, he adds.

Lightning may have destroyed the original, but the eagle may eventually fly again.