Big Shoe Repair

by The Restoration Clinic staff

The Restoration Clinic of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. completed major repairs on the Cartagena Shoes statue, a pair of seven foot by four foot shoes weighing one ton each. In Coral Gables’ Cartagena Plaza near the University of Miami, the shoes are a well-known fixture. They were smashed by a falling tree during Hurricane Andrew, and appeared to have been ruined. One shoe was broken into several large pieces, and the other was crushed.

After the hurricane, the Restoration Clinic staff dug the remaining shoe pieces out of the soft earth of Cartagena Plaza. They spent several months reassembling the salvageable parts, and recreating those which had been hopelessly destroyed.

The shoes were originally constructed of a steel-reinforced concrete and covered by a skin of bronze-colored stucco. Since the Restoration Clinic guarantees all of its structural repairs, they were concerned with making the outdoor sculpture sufficiently strong. They rebuilt the shoes by shaping steel and wire mesh, then covering it with their own special mix of aggregate and WEST SYSTEM® epoxy. The restored shoes are expected to last through many generations.

In repairing a work of art such as this, attention to detail is just as important as structural integrity. The Restoration Clinic used enlarged photos from the city archives to help them duplicate details that would have otherwise been lost. In unwitting testimony to precision of this firm’s work, some Miami residents were unaware the sculpture was recreated from shattered remains. They thought the shoes had simply been removed from Cartagena Plaza for safekeeping after the hurricane, then later put back.

The Cartagena Shoes have been a beloved landmark to Miami locals and passing travelers for many years. Colombian artist Hector Lombana presented Miami with the shoes in 1979, after seeing a smaller model of his sculpture on display in the plaza. His work was inspired by a poem by Luis Carlos Lopez, which ends “You inspire the same affection one feels for a pair of comfortable old shoes.”

On December 14, 1993, the mayor of Coral Gables re-dedicated the Cartagena Shoes in a ceremony that recognized the Restoration Clinic for its excellent work.