MOREHEAD — There's a good reason the World War I doughboy went missing from the Old Rowan County Courthouse Wednesday morning: Morehead veterans wanted to take him down before he fell down.
The Spirit of the American Doughboy statue, put in place in 1929, was lifted from its foundation and taken to an artist's workshop for cleaning, and the stone-brick pedestal, erected in 1909, will be inspected and possibly rebuilt.
"History is being made, boys," Rowan County Veterans Foundation president Danny Knipp repeated throughout the morning as lift straps were placed on the statue. "This will probably never happen again. Hopefully."
The veterans foundation has tried for more than three years to raise money to have the statue cleaned and the base shored up. Knipp and other foundation members worried that the weight of the statue would crush its pedestal eventually.
But they found out this month that the statue isn't quite what they thought it was.
The original plan called for the statue to be lifted with a crane or bucket truck that could handle 2,000 pounds, the estimated weight of a bronze doughboy made in the 1920s. Closer inspection revealed the statue is pressed copper and probably weighs less than 200 pounds.
"One organization even turned us down on a bucket truck because his would only lift 350 pounds," Knipp said. "Now that we've just lifted it off, we discovered it probably weighs about 150 pounds."
The statue was designed by E.M. Viquesney and is probably one of 300 made in Indiana during the 1920s.
Sam McKinney, the artist hired to clean the statue, said the fact that the statue is copper instead of bronze would change the way he goes about his work.
"I'll have to research how to deal with it," he said. "I may have to blast with walnut shells so as not to damage the thin skin, which is only 1⁄16 of an inch thick."