Statue honoring native son tops off town's revitalization

A copy of a William Rinehart sculpture graces Main Street in Union Bridge, concluding a 14-year project

April 15, 2007|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

William Henry Rinehart, the 19th-century sculptor whom residents consider Union Bridge's most famous son, has come home in the form of one of his many works -- a neo-classical statue that graces the town square on Main Street at Broadway.

The conclusion of a 14-year Main Street Revitalization project -- the installation of the statue atop a three-tiered granite base and pedestal -- took place Thursday morning under gray skies as revitalization committee members, townspeople and Rinehart descendants looked on.

"My grandfather was Israel Rinehart, a relative of William," said Sue Wantz, as she and her father, Clarence Leppo, watched the granite bases being set. Wantz's late mother was Ellen Rinehart.

Wantz and Leppo stayed the entire two hours that it took for Raymond G. Merkle Monuments of Baltimore to set the three pieces of India gray granite, then the pedestal, and finally the bronze statue, titled Love Reconciled With Death.

"I think the statue is beautiful," Wantz said after the installation was completed. "It's a real honor."

Gary Siegel, president of the New Arts Foundry that created the replica, transported the statue from Baltimore to Union Bridge in the bed of his pickup truck.

The bronze statue is of an allegorical female figure holding a bunch of flowers palm down to drop at her feet, more flowers cradled in her left arm resting at her waist. Her curled hair is pulled back and she is dressed in a Roman-style, floor-length gown. Her beautiful, aquiline face is calm.

"This statue had the most emotional connection for Rinehart because it was done for his patron's wife's grave -- the Walters family," said Peter Pearre, a Main Street Revitalization committee member who came up with the idea of the statue. "If not for them, [Rinehart] wouldn't have had the recognition he did."

Rinehart was born on a farm near Quaker Hill Road in 1825, and his father owned a marble quarry, Pearre said.

"That's where he began his tinkering with marble," Pearre said. "There was something innate he was able to draw on."

At age 21, Rinehart went to Baltimore, where he worked for a stone-cutting firm and later started doing his own creations. His work caught the eye of William T. Walters, who would later open his own art gallery in Baltimore, and who became Rinehart's main patron and sponsor.

Rinehart attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, then with Walters' help went to Florence, Italy, stayed for two years and returned to Baltimore. He then went to Rome, where he lived the rest of his life, according to an article on the Historical Society of Carroll County's Web site.

Rinehart made several trips back to the United States before his death in 1874. His work includes statues, funerary pieces, and perhaps what many people recognize his name most of all for, the bronze doors on the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Love Reconciled With Death was commissioned by William Walters for his family plot in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, where the original statue still stands by the grave of his wife, Ellen Walters.

"The Walters family was very cooperative in allowing us to make a copy of the statue," Pearre said. "The Walterses had to give permission to the cemetery to even allow us to think about this."

The statue was the final project in the town's revitalization program, which has included reproduction lamps, new sidewalks, cobbled walkways, State Highway Administration road work and other downtown improvements, said Joan McKee, Main Street committee chairwoman since 1998.

"This is a big milestone, and the committee has not called the Main Street Revitalization concluded until now," McKee said.

She said the statue will be lighted at night.

"I think she's just stunning; it's something distinctive to make our Main Street project unique," McKee said. "Here we have a local connection to Rinehart, whose fame goes far beyond the United States."

One little item remains to be done -- a bas relief profile of Rinehart "that he himself did" on the pedestal that will be made by New Arts Foundry, Pearre said.

McKee said the town is planning a celebration for the conclusion of the Main Street Revitalization project, but no date has been set.

The committee also will hold a lecture on the project at 7 p.m. May 22 at the Carroll County Arts Council with speakers from the Maryland Historical Trust, the National Park Service and Siegel from New Arts Foundry.

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