Freed in fire

Underground Railroad chain sculpture's wooden core burnt out in ceremony SANDUSKY A memorial will rise from the ashes.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Underground Railroad chain sculpture's wooden core burnt out in ceremony


A memorial will rise from the ashes.

The Underground Railroad tribute statue is only a few weeks away from completion.

Artist and Sandusky native Susan Schultz has been working with the city and numerous individuals and organizations to create the tribute statue to the Underground Railroad.

The figures were carved entirely out of wood; chain was welded over the wood to form the bodies of the sculpture.

To produce the hollow chain figures, the wood had to be burned out from the center.

"We had a beautiful day. The burn went great," Schultz said. "A lot of the people that worked on the sculpture were there."

The burning took place Friday morning at Schultz's home on the Cedar Point Chaussee.

"We brought it to the beach because we thought it would be a more ceremonial type of burn," Schultz said. "It was very exciting."

Chief Mike Meinzer and the Sandusky fire department assisted with the burning of the sculpture.

Meinzer said this was the first time the fire department has been involved with this type of burn.

"We were nervous," Meinzer said, knowing how long Schultz and others have been working on the statue -- about three years.

It took about four hours to burn all of the wood from the center of the statue, Meinzer said. He added that it was important to keep the fire from burning too hot or too fast so that the sculpture wouldn't be damaged.

After the sculpture cooled, Meinzer took it back to the fire station to pressure wash the metal.

Tony Guerra and Mack Iron Works have each done work on separate parts of the sculpture.

"We've all been coordinating our efforts," said John Bacon, president of Mack Iron Works.

The idea for the sculpture was born out of the LEADS program, now Leadership Erie County, Bacon said.

Former Assistant City Manager Gary Packan has been involved with the creation of the statue since its beginning.

The statue will be placed atop a limestone pedestal in Facer Park at the foot of Hancock Street along Shoreline Drive.

The Underground Railroad Committee is having educational panels made which will be installed next to the statue.

Packan said that the dedication of the memorial statue will likely take place in October.

"It's a total community project ... and that's what has made it such a wonderful thing to see come together," Bacon said. "We're very excited about it."