The mold created from the original Pioneer Mike statue in Storm Lakes, Iowa, has been completed and is now back in Oregon. The next step is having the artist work with the foundry to cast the new pieces. Each mold piece will be cast separately then welded together. In addition, Public Works staff will prepare the fountain base for the heavier weight of the new statue and figure out what to do with the old statue. Unfortunately, the foundry is extremely busy at this point and it could be several months before they even start on our project. It looks like – best case scenario – we are still a few months from actually getting the statue completed.
Update: April 27, 2015:
Staff hired local historic preservation consultant George Kramer (Kramer & Co.) to evaluate our options for repairing the statue. (Any solution the City chooses must be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.) Mr. Kramer’s report, which notes that the statue’s actual name is “Pioneer Mike,” identifies two paths forward. One is to repair the damage, at an estimated cost of $35,500. The other is to replicate the statue in a more durable material at an estimated cost of $47,000; an option that would likely require structural improvements to the Carter Memorial Fountain at an estimated cost of $6,000 (plus $3,000 for a security camera if desired). Neither staff nor Mr. Kramer support the repair option. Kramer’s report states, “Left outside and exposed to the elements, it is only a matter of time before the statue will become so deteriorated or so damaged, that restoration and continued exterior display will become unlikely if not impossible.” The report goes on to state, “…it is my professional recommendation that the City of Ashland replicate Pioneer Mike in a durable material, preferably cast bronze, based upon an original mold, and place this replica atop the rehabilitation base of the Carter Memorial Fountain.” (Emphasis contained in original report)
The Pioneer Mike damage was accepted by the City’s insurance carrier (City/County Insurance Services) as a property damage claim, however the policy will pay only $8,500, which is the amount the insurer has deemed necessary to do a basic repair. An additional $10,000 is required for the deductible on the policy, which will be paid out of the City’s Insurance Fund. Funding for the balance of the work is proposed in the 2015-17 biennial budget in an amount sufficient to do replication, fountain rehabilitation and a security camera.
Mr. Kramer is schedule to come to the City Council’s May 4 study session (5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room at 51 Winburn Way) to answer questions about his report.
The Iron Mike statue that has graced Ashland’s downtown plaza for more than a century was seriously damaged in October, 2014, when someone climbed up on the Carter Memorial Fountain in the plaza and broke off the statue’s right hand and rifle. The statue was removed from the fountain in late October so staff could evaluate repair options. At that time, staff discovered other damage and deterioration to the statue that could require very costly remediation.
The options, unfortunately, are not good. The statue is made of zinc alloy, a material that virtually no one works with any longer, and the spot from which the hand and rifle were broken off is the same spot that had previously been damaged and repaired in 2001. Re-repairing the same spot will be difficult if not impossible.
What’s more, since removing the statue from its perch, staff has discovered numerous other cracks and defects, some of the worst of which are pictured below.
The photo above left show a circumferential crack around Iron Mike’s knee. The photo on the right shows a crack that runs the length of Iron Mike’s leg. The photo below shows multiple cracks in Iron Mike’s foot.
This raises multiple concerns. First, we are concerned about the structural integrity of the statue as a whole. We believe that when the vandal climbed up on the fountain in October, had they given the statue a good shove, they might have destroyed it completely. We don’t want to put the statue back on the fountain until or unless we are certain that it has been fully repaired. Second, we are concerned that, given the age of the statue (over 100 years old) and the material used to create it, the statue cannot be adequately repaired.
This situation is further complicated by the fact that the Carter Memorial Fountain (including the Iron Mike statue) is on the National Register of Historic Places as a primary contributing structure to the Downtown Historic District. We therefore might not have the option of not repairing it and restoring it to its previous location, and we face the strong possibility that repair and restoration will be very expensive.
Staff plans to hire an historic preservation consultant to help us evaluate what our options are at this point. Anything we do will have to comport with state historic preservation rules and we will need some outside expertise to help guide us through those rules. Repairing the statue or replacing it with a suitable replica could take as long as a year.