Sculptures of 2 Rouses to move to lakefront

Founder of Columbia, his brother in storage

October 16, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

You can see James W. Rouse's fingerprints all over Columbia, but you can't see him.

A statue of the town's founder, who died in 1996, has been tucked away in storage closets for about 2 1/2 years, forced out of sight by vandalism and indecision.

The wait has been long and perhaps a little undignified for a man revered for welcoming people of all races, faiths and incomes to his new town.

Locked up with the sculpture in a Columbia Art Center storage area is a companion statute of Rouse's elder brother Willard G. Rouse, who was executive vice president of the Rouse Co. The bronze little brother holds court, punctuating some point with an extended right hand. Willard Rouse is his captive audience, dutifully taking notes.

Lakefront a popular site

The slightly larger-than-life Rouse brothers are about to have a lot more company. The Columbia Council decided last week to move the statues to the downtown lakefront, which draws thousands of people to its restaurants, offices and events.

"This is a piece of art we feel has a lot to do with Columbia and its beginnings," said Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown. "I think it's a symbol of his vision of Columbia. It seems as though he's talking about Columbia with his brother - his vision, a place that would grow people."

First in Symphony Woods

Named Dealings, the two statues are the work of Baltimore sculptor William Duffy. They were placed outside the Symphony Woods office building in Town Center in 1986. Rouse & Associates, which commissioned the work for about $70,000, owned the building at the time.

The building changed hands several times, and the statues stayed with it.

About 2 1/2 years ago, after a vandalism attempt, owners PMRealty Advisors put the bronze brothers into storage. In June 2000, the company sold the statutes to the Columbia Association for $10,000.

Since then, the association has tried to figure out what to do with the pair.

In a town in which even pink flamingos must pass muster with local boards before they land on lawns, finding the right spot to honor the founding family has taken time and planning.

"You just don't stick it anywhere," said Charles Rhodehamel, who oversees the homeowners association's division of open space management.

Russell moved to tears

Columbia Councilwoman Barbara Russell was moved to tears at a meeting Thursday when talking about where to place the statues.

Russell explained that Rouse meant a lot to her because of the tolerant town he envisioned. As a white woman married to a black man, Russell felt welcome in Columbia in 1967, when interracial marriages had just been legalized in Maryland.

"So many people that have moved to Columbia in the last few years, they don't know Rouse," Russell said. "They don't appreciate what he did and what Columbia has meant to the people who have lived here all these years because they just moved here for the schools or their job or because it's near Baltimore or Washington.

"And I think Columbia is more special than that, and nobody symbolized it more than Rouse. I'm glad we're finally getting around to putting him in the center of town."

The council decided to place the statues at the lakefront because the area attracts so many people and because it is near Rouse's former office and the People Tree, a sculpture that serves as the town's symbol.

The Columbia Council wants a task force to decide where on the shores of Lake Kittamaqundi to place the statues. The task force also is to consider whether a plaque with a quotation or other text should be added.

Invitation to Patty Rouse

Among those who will be asked to serve on the panel are architect Bob Moon of Columbia and Patty Rouse, widow of the Columbia founder.

"What we would need is a beautiful pedestrian space because of the scale of the statue," said Moon, who is donating his services to help design a memorial for fallen Howard County police officers. "I'd really be honored to help locate it."

Patty Rouse said she agrees with the lakefront location for the statues.

"I feel it's important to keep Jim's vision of Columbia alive, and I think more people would see it there," she said.

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