SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – It took him nearly a year, but Cross River resident Vinnie Maniace’s labor of love has finally come to fruition.
Maniace, a woodworking hobbyist, has completed work on the American eagle wood sculpture that has hung from the front of the Lewisboro Library for nearly 50 years. The iconic symbol had suffered the wrath of the elements over the past five decades and was in pretty rough shape.
“Cindy Rubino (the library director) approached me and asked if one of my Scouts would like to (repair) it as a service project,” said Maniace, who is scoutmaster for Lewisboro’s Troop 1. “She thought it would just need to be painted.”
But Maniace quickly realized that the sculpture needed much more than a fresh coat of paint. It was cracked and had pieces missing, and gold leaf would need to be applied. He decided to take on the project himself.
“I spent the first few months doing some research,” he said. “I didn’t want to touch it until I knew more about it and the value of it.”
When he realized it would need gold leaf, he went online and watched several videos about the technique.
“Gold leaf is very thin and fragile,” he said. “Working with it is time-consuming and meticulous.”
Maniace also took the eagle to have it appraised. Originally, experts thought it might be the work of a now-defunct company called Artistic Carving Co. of Boston. But certain clues, such as the size of the sculpture, indicated that Artistic Carving was probably not the source. The eagle has adorned the library’s exterior since 1964, but no one, including Town Historian Maureen Koehl, seems to know its origin.
“The library has some records, and I am going to look through them to see if we can figure it out,” Maniace said.
Maniace has no formal training in woodworking. He said his father used to do a lot of carpentry around the house and he would watch. Maniace supplemented that with a lot of reading on the subject and realized he had an instinctive inclination for the work.
“After I got married 30 years ago, I started making my own early-American-style furniture,” he said. “I’ve made bird feeders, done home renovations and made nest boxes for American kestrels for Ward Pound Reservation.”
Maniace, who is now putting the finishing touches on the eagle, spent around $500 on materials for the project. He said that he and his wife, who are regular patrons of the library, are more than happy to donate the time and money.
The library is to undergo major renovations next year, and Maniace said the eagle will be placed under an overhang to help shield it from the weather. Until then, it will be put back in its original spot at the front of the library.
“We hope to put it up next week,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but I am a perfectionist when I build stuff.”