Saturday, March 28, 2009
Carson City's Statues Help Tell Nevada's Story
Most folks who visit Carson City never notice the sculptures arranged in the plaza between the State Capitol and the State Legislative Building. But that handful of bronzes spotlights several of the most significant people in Nevada’s past.
The three larger-than-life statues in the plaza depict a trio of 19th century historical figures including Abraham Curry, Adolph Sutro and Kit Carson.
The oldest of the works, dedicated in 1979, is the figure of Curry, the man considered the father of Carson City. It presents Curry, casually dressed in a shirt, pants and shoes, holding a rolled up blueprint that represents the plans for the city.
Sculpted by Robert Morrison, a longtime art professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, the work is also called “Man with a Vision.” In inscription on a bronze plaque on the concrete base of the statue notes Curry “accomplished more in his 15 year residence than most men hope to do in a lifetime.”
The Nevada Association of Realtors, which donated the statue to the state of Nevada, had it created to honor the man who laid out Carson City, donated the land for the state capital and built many of the city’s most prominent buildings, including the U.S. Mint and the V & T Railroad maintenance shops (now gone).
Nearby is a statue that is generally said to depict Adolph Sutro, the man who engineered and constructed Sutro Tunnel. The four-mile tunnel, which took nine years to build, is considered one of the major engineering achievements of the 19th century.
Sutro Tunnel, which stretched from near Dayton to beneath the Comstock mines, drained hot, sulfurous waters that made working underground so dangerous.
Crafted by Nevada sculptor Greg Melton, the work is officially called “Tribute to Nevada Miners” and depicts a bearded miner, based on Sutro, who stands holding a pick-axe over his head with both hands. He wears boots, pants and a shirt with rolled-up sleeves.
The bronze stands nearly 13-feet tall and was donated to the state of Nevada by the Nevada Mining Association on Nevada Day in 1983. A plaque on its base identifies it as: “Tribute to Nevada Miners, October 31, 1983, A gift from the Nevada Mining Industry to the State of Nevada in cooperation with the Nevada Mining Association.”
The third bronze on the plaza commemorates explorer and scout Christopher “Kit”Carson, an American scout and frontiersman who led the John C. Frémont Expedition in 1843-44 through the territory that became known as Nevada.
This work shows Carson in his buckskin garb riding a horse. In his glove right hand, he holds a hat while his gloved left hand grips a rifle and the horse’s reins. He is slightly bent over the horse as if looking for signs of a trail.
The statue, which is more than 8-feet-high, stands on a base inscribed with a plaque and two maps of Nevada showing the trails blazed by Carson.
The inscription on the Carson statue indicates: “1843-44, Kit Carson by Buckeye Blake, Commissioned by Truett and Eula Loftin.” The Loftins, former owners of the Ormsby House Casino in Carson City, donated the work to the state of Nevada in 1989.
The creator of the work, artist Buckeye Blake, was born in California but lived in Carson City as a boy during the late 1950s. He currently lives in Texas, where he maintains his studio.
Not all of Carson City’s statuary stands in the plaza, however. The most recent bronze is a representation of Native American author (she was the first Native American woman to write a book) and activist Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, which was placed inside the State Capitol in 2005.
This elegant bronze, which measures more than six-feet tall, shows Winnemucca with a shell-flower—her Paiute name is “Thocmentony” or Shell Flower—in one hand and a book in the other. She is garbed in traditional, fringed buckskin clothing and leather boots.
The statue, created by South Dakota sculptor Benjamin Victor, is a duplicate of one that stands in the United States Capitol, National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. It was donated to the hall by the Nevada Women's History Project in 2005.