Stolen statue returned to Trenton, NJ’s ‘Angel Island’
TRENTON — The stolen the Angel of Faith statuer returned to its podium in front of three churches at the city's holiday celebration on Wednesday.
The 500 pound bronze statue was cut at the ankles and taken from its podium at Perry and Warren streets in the early hours of May 3.
Kevin L. Hampton, 51, of Lawrenceville, and Zachary Carey, 48, of Trenton were charged with cutting the statue, putting it in the back of Hampton's GMC Sierra and selling it to a Philadelphia scrapyard for $1,626.
The statue was recovered in June and was in good condition except for the severed arm and leg and general “wear and tear” from theft and transport, according to city spokesman Tim Carroll at the time.
The statue was officially welcomed back to its podium during Wednesday night's holiday celebration.
“This was the miracle on Perry Street,” Mayor Reed Gusciora said in a statement. “Our police tracked down the statue in a scrap yard in Philadelphia and brought the pieces to Johnson Atelier the original foundry where they returned it to its natural beauty. This iconic statue greets visitors as they enter our city and represents the hope and aspirations of the Capital City.”
Carroll said the statue was restored at a cost of $21,000 to the city which is seeking restitution from Carey and Hampton.
Back to the beginning
Atelier Director Claire Brown told New Jersey 101.5 the atelier was happy to take on the statue's restoration.
"This project meant a lot to us, we were very happy to be the ones to restore it. So we felt like we knew it because it was cast here was finished here," Brown said.
There was only one person still working at Johnson Atelier from 1986 when the statue was originally sculpted. Hal English, the brother of the statue's original sculptor Joe English, came to the atelier while the statue was being restored.
"He's been kept updated with the process. It means a lot to have his brother's piece returned and put back in that site," Brown said.
Brown said that the statue was recovered in the first place was a miracle. Most stolen statues are sold for scrap.
The atelier received the statue pieces in July and had their work cut out for them. Brown said they are usually very careful in their handling of statues. The metal bent and the tip of the right wing was damaged when it fell to the ground. Using a crane the statue was placed on its base.
"It had to be refit because the sections had bent. It was welded up and rechafed, meaning all the form and texture had to be returned to it. The sphere was bent so that had to be reshaped. The arm was also hung and refit and rewelded," Brown said.
Ensuring the original look
They also worked with Randy Baum, Trenton's Director of Construction, to make sure the color match the original installation. It was sealed in wax so the color will remain for a long time, according to Brown. It was actually installed on Dec. 2 ahead of the holiday celebration.
Harry Jackendoff, the warden's assistant and sexton at St. Michael's Church, said the churches plan to make the statue the centerpiece of the "peace park." He said the theft led to some good things including its unofficial name "Angel Island."
"Because it got stolen a lot of people took notice. The angel was overgrown with weeds, the city rarely cleaned up. When it was in disrepair and the island was weedy you just overlooked it," Jackendoff said. "Suddenly it was like hope again. It was wonderful."