Ohio man hopes for restoration for Sherman statue
Nov 4, 2012 at 1:22 PM
The 7-foot sandstone statue of William Tecumseh Sherman, a Lancaster native, is tucked in a small, grassy lot between two businesses in a Pickerington shopping center.
"A lot of people here in Pickerington don't even know it exists," said Peggy Portier of the Pickerington-Violet Township Historical Society.
Sherman has taken a long, strange trip — one that its owner hopes ends in a proper restoration.
The piece, made in 1918, numbers among dozens of presidents and generals created by Daniel Brice Baughman on his property in the Muskingum County town of Frazeysburg.
The private Baughman Memorial Park remained a tourist attraction for decades. In 1968, vandals damaged the statues of Sherman and Theodore Roosevelt.
The property changed hands several times thereafter, and, in 2008, the latest owners decided to auction the artwork.
The public sale piqued the interest of Columbus real-estate developer Walter Reiner, a history buff. At the auction, he watched as the statue of Ulysses S. Grant sold for $35,000 and that of George Washington for $21,000.
"Then they had poor Sherman," Reiner said, "and I'm thinking, 'This is pathetic.' The poor guy didn't have a head, so I figured I'd buy it and bring him back to Fairfield County, where he belongs."
Reiner paid $2,800 for Sherman and had the 8½-ton hunk of rock hauled to the only property he manages in Fairfield County — Brookview Village Shopping Center on Hill Road N.
Sherman rests between a check-cashing store and a coffee shop.
"I had to have a place to put it," Reiner said. "I didn't want it in my yard."
Jonda Sims, manager of Planet Coffee, was working the day the statue arrived.
"Everyone's got their nose plastered to the window, and the truck pulls in, and they unload this dude, and it's like 'Hey, it doesn't have a head!'" Sims said. "'What's wrong with this picture? Somebody dropped the head.'"
And there Sherman has stood for four years.
Pranksters this year targeted the sculpture, splattering red paint on the neck (Reiner had it repainted). Usually, Sims said, someone puts a pumpkin head on top for Halloween.
Pickerington police once got a call from someone upset at what was viewed as the defamation of a hero.
"I don't mean any harm," Reiner said. "I'm trying to save the statue."
To that end, he has made calls to central Ohio sculptors for repair estimates — all prohibitive.
Reiner had hoped to get the work done for $4,000.
The restoration of a life-size head would probably cost about $20,000, said Carmine Menduni, owner of Columbus Art Memorial on Greenlawn Avenue.
"The head is the hardest part to do," Menduni said. "It's a very long process."
Meanwhile, Sherman — once the commander of the entire U.S. Army — commands the small lot.
"It's kind of odd," Sims said. "It really is."