A 1992 survey identified 130 outdoor sculptures in 36 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. These sculptures include freestanding figures, equestrians, busts, and bas-reliefs, shaped or assembled from bronze, steel, aluminum, stone, concrete, marble, granite, ceramics, and wood.
Some are monuments to people and events before the formation of West Virginia. The frontier struggle is represented in a life-sized sculpture of Chief Logan at the Mingo County courthouse; one of the Indian fighter Levi Morgan at the Wetzel County courthouse; a similar statue of an unnamed Mingo warrior at Mingo Flats; one of another Mingo on Wheeling Hill; and one of Buckongahelas and his dying son in Buckhannon. An 84-foot obelisk with a stone sculpture of a frontiersman, dedicated in 1909, memorializes the Battle of Point Pleasant.
Remembrances to the soldiers and key figures of the Civil War are present throughout the state, with 15 freestanding statues to the Union and the Confederacy. Erected in the decades after the war, these comprise most of the oldest outdoor sculptures in the state. The Civil War statues are often near county courthouses. An exception is Monroe County’s Confederate statue, which stands in a field outside the county seat.
A notable equestrian bronze sculpture of Confederate Gen. Thomas J. ‘‘Stonewall’’ Jackson on a polished granite base at the Harrison County courthouse is located within sight of the general’s Clarksburg birthplace. There is a fine statue of Jackson afoot on the capitol grounds in Charleston. A Lincoln statue, ‘‘Lincoln Walks At Midnight’’ by Fred Martin Torrey, is located at the front of the capitol overlooking the Kanawha River. A Union infantryman marches to the west of Lincoln, in the place opposite Jackson.
World War I soldiers are also well represented in our state’s monuments. All of these figures are life-sized and made of bronze, metal, or marble or other stone. There are nine of these monuments, with some cast as soldiers in action. A unique memorial to the Americans who gave their lives in World War I is a seven-foot bronze allegorical figure of an American airman with large bird-like wings on the campus of Linsly School in Wheeling.
Until recently there were few monuments to the soldiers of World War II and later conflicts. A statue placed in Huntington in 1980 memorialized veterans from World War II and later wars. The West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, one of the state’s finest monuments, includes four figures representing a marine from the Vietnam War, a World War I soldier, a World War II sailor, and an aviator from the Korean War. Statues outside the nearby Cultural Center depict a coal miner, firefighter, and police officer.
There is a fine frontiersman statue on the east side of the capitol complex, representing the mountaineer spirit. A bronze rendition of the WVU Mountaineer mascot stands in front of the Mountainlair student center in Morgantown. There is an over-sized statue of U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall near the library at Marshall University.
The oldest sculpture found in the 1992 survey was a nine-foot wood carving of Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia when Monongalia County was formed in 1776. Dedicated August 20, 1851, this statue was made to stand on the cupola of the courthouse in Morgantown and remained there until 1890, after which it was stored indoors. The oldest sculpture that has stood outdoors since its installation is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Wheeling. Erected by the Soldiers Aid Society of Wheeling in 1880 and dedicated May 30, 1883, the 16-foot stone monument incorporates three life-size carved figures. The monument has been moved to various locations and now resides in Wheeling Park.
Notable artists are represented in the state’s outdoor sculpture, including the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum. Borglum created an eight-foot bronze statue of Collis P. Huntington, founder and builder of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and the founder of Huntington. The statue stands in Huntington’s Heritage Village.
This Article was written by Charles C. Coffman
Last Revised on November 05, 2010