Monday, March 31, 2008

The Goddess of Liberty - Texas Style

I like this story!
(Photo: Columbia, Goddess of Liberty, is shown atop the Capitol Dome on Wednesday, April 14, 2004, in Austin.

March 29, 2008, 7:46PM
Tex-Arcana: What's the history of the goddess?

Statue atop Capitol is not the original, but her purpose is

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — She's not exactly pretty, she was in danger of falling to pieces once, and when Texans decided to replace her, they had such a tough time that they called in the National Guard from a nearby state.

But the lady with the exaggerated facial features atop the Texas Capitol is a goddess, nonetheless.

The Goddess of Liberty, to be exact.

The original zinc statue was designed by Texas State Capitol Architect E.E. Meyers of Detroit, likely inspired by publicity about the construction of the Statue of Liberty and by the Statue of Freedom placed on the U.S. Capitol, according to the State Preservation Board.

Nearly 16 feet tall and weighing 2,000 pounds, she was hoisted atop the Texas Capitol in four pieces in 1888.

Workers put her together on top of the dome with screws.

When extensive cracking was noticed nearly 100 years later, the State Preservation Board decided to replace the original (now safely at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum) with an aluminum duplicate.

Easier said than done.

A Texas National Guard helicopter got her down safely, although The Associated Press noted a moment of drama when a line snapped:

"The harness dropped, and the spectators gasped."

Hoisting the lighter (at 1,100 pounds) replacement back onto her anchor pole was another matter.

After repeated attempts to thread the statue's bottom opening onto the pole failed, Texas called on the Mississippi National Guard for help — a story line so irresistible that the New York Times and Washington Post documented it.

The Post's story began, "This has not been the best of years in the Southwest, and in times like these, when life goes bad for awhile, people tend to look for symbols and omens."

The Mississippi National Guard contingent, with a helicopter better suited for the accurate aim required of the mission than those available to Texas, put the new goddess in place.

Then-Capitol architect Roy Graham told the New York Times that the help didn't hurt his pride at all: "I'd take a Louisiana shrimp boat if it would work."

One sign that Texas pride is undiminished, notes the State Preservation Board, is that the statue, likely modeled after Pallas Athena, maintains her title of goddess (unlike, say, the Statue of Liberty).

"Texas is the second-largest state in size," board staff said in speculating on the reason, "but not in the minds of Texans."

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