GEORGETOWN, Ohio | To say the least, it has been a long and rocky road for the U. S. Grant Homestead Association and the Village of Georgetown in regard to erecting a statue to honor the village's native son, Ulysses S. Grant.
But that road comes to an end on Saturday, Aug. 25, when the white, Vermont granite statue is officially dedicated.
The statue itself has traveled quite a distance, having been sculpted at the Granite Industry of Vermont by sculpture Eric Oderg. The statue, appropriately named "Native Son" arrived in Georgetown on June 6, at 8 a.m. and was in place on its black granite base by 11 a.m.
Ned Lodwick, a member of USGHA, took time Friday to talk about the statue and the roadblocks encountered during the 13 year quest to have a monument honoring Grant erected across from Courthouse Square.
Lodwick is quick to point out the project always had the complete support of those who have held public office for the village since 1996.
Lodwick said the great part is that "everyone stuck with it and wanted it" to happen.
In 1996, Mayor Ray Becraft and Village Administrator Mike Miller began negotiations with the Loudon family to buy property at the corner of Grant and Main Street.
In 1999, a plan was approved to tear down the old gas station on the property, and the property was divided for use as a parking lot and a public park.
In 2001 Becraft, in his position with the Chamber of Commerce, began to investigate the possibility of erecting a statue in the park.
Lodwick said the first plan called for a bronze, equestrian statue of Grant, but the bid was between $150,000 and $200,000.
To raise money for the statue fund, artist Kevin Miller painted a picture entitled "Coming Home" that depicted Grant on horseback in front of the Brown County Courthouse in 1865, following the Civil War.
At the same time, there was a sentiment among people that a statue of Grant should be located at the new Ohio Veteran's Home, Lodwick said.
Mike Miller and Steve Wigman worked on that project and in 2004, a bronze statue of Grant was dedicated at the Veteran's Home. Lodwick said the statue was the gift of an anonymous donor.
With one statue of Grant now in place in Georgetown, the statue project went into a lull until 2008, when a statue of Grant was located in Frazeysburg, Ohio.
The statue was located in Baughman Park and the new owner of the property was selling off eight statues within the park.
Lodwick said the day of the auction, "they were very confident they would get the statue." But again fate intervened, with the final bid being $35,000, far exceeding the $13,000 raised for the purchase.
"It was good at that point, it got us stirred up to see what we could do," Lodwick said.
It was at this point, he said, the Association and the Village of Georgetown decided to investigate the possibility of commissioning a statue.
The group enlisted the help of Jim and Kelly Heslar, and a budget of $20,000 was established. But after seeking bids for the project, the cost was coming in between $50,000 and $75,000.
Working through a broker, a group in China was contacted and they returned a bid of $18,000 to sculpt a stone statue, based on one of Grant in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
However, when the statue was received, it was rejected.
"It just wasn't acceptable, you wouldn't walk up to it and say "That is Grant,"; you would say "That's a Civil War soldier," Lodwick said.
It was back to square one in 2009, when one of the original bidders offered to do the statue, but wanted no input as to the design. He was going to sculpt the Rotunda statue of Grant and wanted $19,000.
"That statue is considered the best statue of Grant ever done," Lodwick said, adding the Rotunda statue is marble.
The unnamed sculptor suddenly decided after two years he no longer wanted to work on the project, but this time, fate's intervention was positive and sculptor Eric Oderg was hired to finish the statue.
"As far as everyone is concerned, he is the sculptor, the detail you see is what Eric did," said Lodwick.
The statue now standing across from Courthouse Square depicts Grant in a uniform worn between the years of 1866 - 1869; and the sculpted face is of a younger Grant than the one in the Rotunda. Oderg's details show Grant as he looked during the Civil War, a younger and thinner man. The face on the Rotunda statue, Lodwick said, is that of Grant during his presidency, when he was older and heavier.
Now with two statues of Ulysses S. Grant in the village of Georgetown, Lodiwck said there is only one other place in the world that has two statues of Grant: Washington, D.C.
"Our contention is we have a better statue than in the Capitol Building," he said.
"San Purdy has been in the forefront to keep this all going and in the right direction. Numerous mayors and commissioners have all been behind this...members of the Association have been behind it and never asked why we are doing this," Lodwick said. "The Association's mission is to preserve the legacy of Grant. The statue couldn't be nicer, he was a great American hero and we are happy to have a monument to him. Hopefully, people will see this statue and want to read and learn more about him."
The U.S. Grant Statue in the Park dedication takes place Aug. 25 at noon. The U.S. Grant Homestead Association is raising funds through a "buy a brick" fundraiser to support statue project. The bricks are $35 each, which covers the cost of the brick, engraving and installation in the park. Visit www.usgrantboyhoodhome.org for more information.