Restored bronze statues of Rouses get new home

Unveiling coincides with Columbia festival


July 28, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bronze statues of James W. Rouse and his brother, Willard G. Rouse, were unveiled yesterday in the heart of Columbia as a reminder of the legendary developer's contribution to the city.

Columbia, now with more than 95,0000 residents, was the vision of James Rouse, who died in 1996.

Early yesterday morning, workmen bolted the statues to the ground near the flower beds on the shore of Lake Kittamaqundi. The statue of James Rouse faces the nearby People Tree, the town's symbol.

"Looking from all points of the lakefront, you can see [the statues]," said Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown. "It's a very good, public spot. A lot of people pass through that area."

The sculptures, named Dealings, were kept under a white sheet until 6:15 p.m., when they were unveiled with celebratory speeches and to the ringing of newly repaired wharf-side carillon bells.

Association funding and a $10,000 birthday gift to Columbia from the Rouse Co. helped pay for the repair of five of the tower's 12 bells. They pealed 35 times last night, marking the years of Columbia's existence.

The statues were created in 1986 by Baltimore sculptor William F. Duffy for $70,000 on commission from Rouse and Associates for the grounds of its Symphony Woods Office Center.

Duffy remembered how pleased James Rouse was when he first saw the slightly larger-than-life statues at the original dedication. They had been kept as a "big secret" from him.

The statues remained at the original site through several changes of ownership of the building but were later put into storage after being vandalized. They were purchased by the Columbia Association for $10,000 in June 2000.

A task force of local leaders chose the location for the sculptures. An association budget allocation this year, with additional funding from the Rouse Co., paid for the restoration and installation.

Duffy and an assistant spruced up the sculptures. They removed a layer of "brown goo" that had been applied in a failed restoration attempt. Duffy cleaned the surface, sealed the finish with wax and welded a thick bronze plate to the feet to support the structures.

Columbia's eighth annual International Day, a daylong festival of diversity at the lakefront, provided the perfect backdrop for the statues' rededication, Brown said.

"We wanted to do it on a day ... [with] a lot of the residents present. And so we chose Columbia International Day," she said. "That's the day when our two sister cities are in town ...

and it's also the day when we celebrate our diversity. ... This was one of [James Rouse's] foremost points about Columbia, that it would be an open community." Columbia's sister cities are Cergy-Pontoise, France, and Tres Cantos, Spain.

Yesterday's festivities featured ethnic foods and a culturally diverse slate of entertainment and crafts. A highlight was a display of 37 brightly painted golf umbrellas. The umbrellas were decorated by area youths, ages 6-17, who competed in three age categories for ribbons, awarded by a committee of professional artists. The theme of the art competition was, "United We Stand Under One Umbrella," a sentiment that James Rouse would have endorsed, according to many who knew him.

Alton J. Scavo, a senior vice president of Rouse Co. who worked with James Rouse, recalled his many other accomplishments, including the once-newfangled ideas for shopping malls, festival marketplaces and open urban spaces that have been widely copied.

"If you had to put it in 10 words or less," Scavo said, "I think [Rouse's vision] was to create an open community where all folks had the opportunity to thrive."

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