The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 28, 2013

Chief Wapello’s restoration is underway

Conservation of 119-year-old statue on schedule, completion date not set yet

OTTUMWA — The work on restoring Chief Wapello to his original glory is progressing.

The 119-year-old statue had stood atop the Wapello County Courthouse for decades before he was ripped from his perch during a high-powered wind storm last June.

“He had a fair amount of damage over the years,” said Wapello County Supervisor Steve Siegel. “They’re going to rig up a new way to attach him so he’ll last a couple hundred years this time.”

That “rig” is a new armature, the structural piece that will hold the chief in place once he’s atop the courthouse again.

“We’re replacing the internal armature with stainless steel and we’ve straightened out a number of pieces and parts, including moccasins and hands; one of his legs was badly damaged and feathers and his face,” said Rob Jensen, director of Jensen Conservation Services Inc. in Omaha, Neb. “In theory, now the building should go before the chief.”

When the chief was first constructed, the manufacturer used mild steel for the armature, which was “fairly traditional” at the time, he said.

“Stainless steel was not widely available the first part of last century,” he said. “There are any number of sculptures in the country that have mild steel armatures in them.”

Before he fell, the armature that went 3 feet down into the courthouse ran up through one of Chief Wapello’s feet and all the way up through his head.

“Over time, it rusted, and when we had that big wind storm, it snapped,” Siegel said.

It likely would have snapped at some point due to the rusted support, Siegel said, though “who knows when.”

The conservation of Chief Wapello is right on schedule, Jensen said, though a completion date has not been set.

“The issue with completion is frankly we’re going to work on it until we get him right,” Jensen said. “It’s nothing completely unexpected. We’re just going to take our time and when he comes back, he’ll look very good.”

Jensen did find more damage once he began working on the chief.

“Not being able to see the back, we couldn’t lift and turn it around without some kind of hydraulic assist,” he said.

When they were able to turn him over, they found that the back of his arm, his arrows and his bow had caved in, which they hadn’t originally been able to see from the front.

“But it’s nothing that’s going to cause any dramatic shift in our approach,” he said.

Looking at the statue, Jensen said he can tell it’s been patched before.

“I do believe he’s been out playing with other children, because he appears to have some bullet holes in him,” Jensen said, though he couldn’t tell for sure.

Original estimates showed the restoration would cost more than $20,000, though it will be paid in full through insurance since the damage was done through no fault of the county.

Siegel said the supervisors plan to display the chief for a few weeks once he returns from Omaha before securing him to his outlook over the city.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Graham's presentation A sweet history lesson OTTUMWA — In one of the most popular monthly presentations the Wapello County Historical Society has ever hosted, it was standing-room only to hear the history of Graham Milk and Ice Cream Company and try some of the popular product. A landmark in Ot

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • Ready, set, shop! OTTUMWA — Iowa's government says businesses must participate in the Tax-Free Weekend this Friday and Saturday. Store manager Greg Martin isn't complaining. "It’ll be much busier [than typical weekends]. Back to school is the second busiest season nex

    July 31, 2014

  • LCL scholarship recipients Supporting the health care future of the community OTTUMWA — For several area college students, Thursday afternoon was a chance to put names and faces with the thousands of scholarship dollars they have just received. The Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation hosted a reception to honor the 25 college s

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0801 OTT DMV new building exterior -M Ottumwa's DMV station ready to move OTTUMWA — If you believe you'll need to visit the driver's license station next month, you may want to write this down: 2849 N. Court St., Suite B. That'll be the new address for the Iowa DMV's office, which is currently located across from the Fairf

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0801 OTT Five Things logo -L T Five things to do in southeast Iowa OTTUMWA — Celebrate summer in a variety of ways and in several communities this weekend. Many towns are holding festivals, shows and events all centered around the summer theme, so head out while it's warm. 1. "Summer Shorts" is the Davis County Play

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0731 OTT Aviation plane -T -M Flying free OTTUMWA — The financial obstacle may have been removed if your career goal starts with learning to fly. "We have it set up for three terms, about nine months," said pilot and chief flight instructor Darren Graham at Indian Hills Community College. "

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supervisors discuss pipeline potential KEOSAUQUA — Van Buren County Supervisors received preliminary, general information on a new pipeline being proposed to carry oil from North Dakota through Iowa, including Van Buren County, then crossing into Illinois. The proposed Bakken Pipeline wou

    July 30, 2014

  • Fairfield stabbing suspects' trials separated FAIRFIELD — The three people accused of dragging a man into a Fairfield apartment before robbing and stabbing him have had a judge grant their requests to separate their trials. Dawn Dunn, Dustin Roll and Brett Hedblade are each charged with willful

    July 30, 2014

  • Local business donates grain rescue tube KEOSAUQUA — Stockport Elevator, owned by Roquette America, donated a grain rescue tube to Birmingham and Stockport Fire Departments. A training session was conducted Monday, led by Dale Ekdahl, a representative of Outstate Data, LLC, the device’s man

    July 30, 2014

  • Where do my taxes go? OTTUMWA — Wapello County Board certified its tax levy. But what does that mean? Based on budgets submitted by various levying authors, the Wapello County Auditor prepares and certifies the levy rates for the county. Budgets for each levy are based on

    July 30, 2014

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook