The discussion started when we posted a charismatic image of the the Goddess of Liberty atop the Capitol taken by Christopher V. Sherman. Almost all the subsequent chat on Facebook focused on the arrival of the replacement facsimile Goddess by helicopter in 1985 during the renovation of the Capitol, which several readers had witnessed.
“The original is on view at the Bullock Texas State History Museum,” Jacqui Schraad of the Texas State History Museum Foundation reminds us. “She will soon undergo some needed conservation in June, thanks to the generosity of Bank of America. She will remain on display, so visitors can observe the conservation underway.”
But how then did the original get up there in the age before helicopters?
Ali James from the State Preservation Board came to our rescue.
“Architect E. E. Myers of Detroit designed the statue as the crowning element of the Texas Capitol and included it on his early 1881 competition drawings for the building,” James writes. “Standing nearly 16 feet tall and weighing approximately 2,000 pounds, the statue probably represents Pallas Athena.”
She suggests that John C. McFarland of Chicago, the subcontractor for the galvanized iron and zinc work on the Texas Capitol, furnished the statue as a part of that same contract.
“Two of McFarland’s foremen, Albert Friedley and Herman F. Voshardt, seem to have guided the actual fabrication of the statue utilizing plaster molds supplied by an unidentified sculptor,” James adds. “During late January and early February 1888, the two men oversaw the casting of the zinc statue in 80 separate pieces that were welded together to form four major sections: the torso, the two arms, and the head. Workmen hoisted the four sections to the top of the Capitol dome and assembled the statue with large iron screws during the last week in February 1888.”
You can’t understand New Austin without delving into Old Austin. One digital avenue for that quest is Austin Found, a series of historical images of Austin and Texas published at statesman.com/austinfound. We’ll share samples here regularly.