Sculptures of Rouse brothers to be brought to light, again

Out of storage, statues will grace lakefront, starting tomorrow


July 26, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

More than 40 years ago, James W. Rouse dreamed the dream that became Columbia and then made that dream come true. But in recent years, there has been no public memorial to Rouse in the city he created.

Tomorrow, people walking along Lake Kittamaqundi in Town Center will get the chance to see again Columbia's most important citizen.

A bronze sculpture of the visionary developer, who died in 1996, will be unveiled during Columbia's International Day celebration in a prominent location on the lakefront. A statue of his older brother, Willard G. Rouse, who was executive vice president of the Rouse Co., will stand nearby.

The event will bring to an end a three-year exile for the slightly larger than life memorial sculptures commissioned from Baltimore sculptor William Duffy by Rouse & Associates in the 1980s for about $70,000.

The figures were first placed outside the Symphony Woods office building, near U.S. 29, in Town Center in 1986 by Rouse, who owned the building at the time. The statues stayed with the building through later changes in ownership.

But in 1999, the sculptures were placed in storage closets at the Columbia Art Center and at the Rouse Co. because of a vandalism attempt at the Symphony Woods location.

In 2000, PMRealty Advisors, the office building's owner, sold the figures to the Columbia Association for $10,000. The homeowners association had been trying to find an ideal public home for them since.

The association's leaders decided that the shores of Lake Kittamaqundi, near the People Tree -- a sculpture that is the town's symbol -- would be the perfect place.

Named Dealings, the two statues depict a scene in which James Rouse is punctuating a point and his brother is taking notes. An explanatory plaque eventually will be added to the statues.

Columbia, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, has grown to a population of more than 95,000, with many new residents who do not know that Rouse developed the city with a vision of people of all races and backgrounds living together, some of the city's longtime citizens note.

Many residents may not realize that Rouse was also a well-known national developer, building urban centers such as Boston's Faneuil Hall Market and Baltimore's Harborplace.

Columbia's pioneers hope the statues will prompt passers-by to learn about the history of the city Rouse built and lived in.

"I'm hoping that it will generate conversations between people who don't know very much about Jim Rouse and those of us who were here in the early years who know a great deal about him," said Columbia Councilwoman Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills, who was among Columbia's first residents.

"It will be very uplifting and inspiring to be able to have that presence," Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown said. "And I think [International Day] will be symbolic in the fact that one of the main things he said about Columbia is that it will be an open, integrated community."

Another Columbia institution from the past will reappear during tomorrow's festival, which celebrates the town's relationships with its sister cities, Cergy-Pontoise, France, and Tres Cantos, Spain.

The Wharf Tower bells at the lakefront plaza, which used to ring on the hour and play "Westminster Chimes" on the quarter-hour, have been repaired after being silent for about a year.

The bells were sent to the Verdin Co. in Cincinnati to be refurbished, and they were being re-installed yesterday.

Twelve bells were first installed in 1977 as a gift from Rouse, and two more were added two years later.

The Columbia Association could not afford the estimated $65,000 to restore all of the bells. Instead, the association decided to restore six bells, which cost about $24,000.

The Rouse Co. contributed $10,000 as an anniversary present for Columbia's 35th birthday, and the Columbia Council voted to allot $14,000 from the association's contingency fund.

About 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to participate in the celebration, which will feature live entertainment and arts and crafts.

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