Tag Archives: Georgia Sculpture

Archibald Butt Memorial Bridge, 1914, Augusta: Georgia’s Only Titanic Memorial

The Major Archibald Willingham Butt Memorial Bridge [shortened to Butt Bridge, locally] is Georgia’s only monument to a victim of the sinking of RMS Titanic and is also one of the most unusual. In terms of sheer size it’s likely the largest such memorial in the nation. Four regal lions guard the corners of the bridge and bald eagles perch atop lighted globes on both sides. The pedestrian friendly structure is also a great place to view the historic Augusta Canal.

It is quite an ostentatious tribute and by nature a “living memorial”, carrying thousands of cars per day over the Augusta Canal at 15th Street. Nisbet Wingfield, the city engineer and commissioner of public works for the city of Augusta, was the engineer for the bridge; William Henry Deacy, who specialized in memorials, was the architect; and the W. W. Leland Company was responsible for the whimsical decorations. [The reinforced concrete bridge is 52.8′ at its largest span, has an overall length of 155.8′, and has a deck width of 55.8′. It is a T-beam, designed to look like an arch form]. By 1994, the future of the bridge was uncertain, but citizens rallied to save it, with the phrase “Save our Butt” a common refrain throughout Augusta. It took over 20 years for everything to fall into place, but in 2017 rehabilitation of the bridge was complete and the future of one of the city’s most unique monuments was insured.

Major Archibald Butt (26 September 1865-15 April 1912) was born to a once-prominent Augusta family who had fallen into poverty after the Civil War. While attending the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, Butt developed an interest in journalism, eventually editing the school newspaper. Before moving to Washington, D. C., Butt worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Macon Telegraph. Upon arriving in the nation’s capital, he covered the government as a correspondent for a syndicate of newspapers in Nashville, Augusta, Atlanta, and Savannah. Through his skillful journalism, he made valuable connections with Washington’s high society and this ultimately landed him a job as the first secretary of the American Embassy in Mexico (1895-1897). Over the next few years Butt continued to write. He also served as a quartermaster in the Spanish-American War, noted for saving the lives of some 500 mules by turning down poor conditions in Hawaii and sailing on to the Philippines, where he remained until 1904. His logistical skills as a supply manager drew much praise, and he later served as Depot Quartermaster in Havana during America’s 1906 occupation of Cuba.

Bronze relief of Major Butt by Henry Price

In March 1908, he began serving as the military aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt, and retained that position with the incoming Taft administration. The military aides-de-camp of this time were essentially protocol chiefs and had close working relationships with presidents. Taft considered Major Butt a close friend, and the Taft family, as a result, were fond of visiting Augusta.

Butt never married and was the housemate and companion of the American painter and sculptor, Francis Davis Millet. Millet had been peripherally associated with the salon of John Singer Sargent and knew many of the finest artists in America during his lifetime. In 1912, Butt took leave from his White House job when animosities flared between Taft and Roosevelt, and he and Millet had been vacationing in Europe, highlighted by an audience with Pope Pius X, before embarking for home on the Titanic. It was said that both men helped women and children onto lifeboats before losing their lives, though this may be apocryphal. Taft was known to have been deeply saddened by Butt’s death.

Major Archibald Willingham Butt (detail of circa 1909 photograph) via Library of Congress. Public domain.

A fountain dedicated to the memory of Butt and Millet was placed in President’s Park at the White House in 1913. In April 1914, former-President Taft visited Augusta to pay tribute to his close friend, and spoke at the dedication of the Memorial Bridge.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

James Oglethorpe Statue, 2003, Augusta

Though he is best known for establishing the Georgia colony and the city of Savannah, James Edward Oglethorpe was also the founder of Augusta. An imposing statue, on the Augusta Common, celebrates his association with the city and depicts him in civilian clothing around the time of the city’s founding. It was created by the noted husband and wife artistic team of Jeffrey H. and Anna Koh Varilla and dedicated on 6 February 2003. It is one of only two life-size tributes to General Oglethorpe in the state, the other being Daniel Chester French’s iconic 1910 Savannah statue, which depicts Oglethorpe in a British general’s uniform.

James Brown Statue, 2005, Augusta

Known as much for his tireless stage presence as his rocky personal life, James Brown (3 May 1933-25 December 2006) was known as the Godfather of Soul, and considered himself “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business”. Born into poverty in Barnwell, South Carolina, he moved at age five with his father and aunt to Augusta, which he considered his hometown. The city honored him with a statue on Broad Street on 6 May 2005. There’s also a James Brown Boulevard in the heart of the city’s historic Black neighborhood.

The sculpture is the work of Montezuma-born orthopedic surgeon John Savage, who has gained notoriety for his artistic pursuits.

Capitoline Wolf Statue, 1929, Rome

This statue, in front of City Hall, is an exact replica of the Etruscan original. It features the Capitoline Wolf nursing the mythological twins Romulus and Remus. It was given to the City of Rome by the Roman Governor by order of Benito Mussolini, as a gesture of goodwill when the Chatillion Silk Mills of Milan, Italy, relocated here in 1929.

The statue was controversial from the outset, but other than a few detractors, was appreciated for its art and historical value. To keep everyone happy, it was often draped, or the twins diapered, when large events were held in the auditorium. One of the twins was stolen in 1933, and though it was never recovered, a replacement was made.

With the outbreak of World War II, anti-Italian sentiment led to the it being mothballed until 1952, when it was returned to its rightful place in front of City Hall. It remains one of the most photographed places in downtown Rome.

Between the Rivers Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Mr. Angel Monument, 2008, Eastman – The First Georgia Bulldog Mascot

Before Sonny Seiler’s white English Bulldogs, known as the Ugas, came to prominence as the most recognizable collegiate mascots in the nation in 1956, there was Mr. Angel.

Mr. Angel was the first English bulldog to serve as the mascot for the University of Georgia. The brindle-and-white bulldog was owned by Dr. Warren A. Coleman of Eastman and served the school from 1944-1946, while Coleman’s daughter, Marie Coleman Wilson, was enrolled at the University.

Dr. Coleman’s home was located on the site of the present-day Magnolia State Bank in downtown Eastman, and upon his death, Mr. Angel was buried in the yard, hence the location of this monument at the site. The marker notes of Mr. Angel: His beautiful appearance and captivating personality inspired the athletes of the University of Georgia to insist English bulldogs remain as the school’s representative…

Mascot Trivia: Before Mr. Angel, the first known mascot to serve the University of Georgia was “The Goat”, who made appearances at two football games during the 1892 season. The first dog to serve as mascot was a Bull Terrier named Trilby, in 1894. After Mr. Angel, and before the Ugas, three other brindle bulldogs served: Butch, Tuffy, and Mike.

Oakview Cemetery, Albany

Oakview and the adjacent Riverside Cemetery make up the largest historic burial ground in Albany. I’m presenting just a few of the monuments which I found aesthetically appealing, in no particular order. One could spend a whole day here exploring the wide array of Victorian monuments.

Martha Dillon Wright Jones (17 October 1833-2 July 1860)

“Pattie’s Grave” is perhaps the best-loved monument in Oak Hill. My taphophile friend, Cynthia Jennings, told me that it was a must-see and it didn’t disappoint. Pattie was the nickname of Martha Dillon Wright Jones. The monument features an angel of white Italian marble housed in a Gothic steeple enclosure. Little is known of Pattie, but the monument notes that she married Columbia County native Edwin Thomas Jones (22 May 1831-1 September 1867) at Appling, Georgia, on 4 April 1850. Jones would later serve as Lieutenant of Company E, 4th Georgia Infantry. It further notes that Pattie “died at the plantation of her husband…in Dougherty County”. The monument is an indication that he was deeply saddened by her early death.

Jones Plot, ornamental willow fence, unsigned

Edward Vason Jones, scion of a prominent Albany family, was one of the most noted Georgia architects of his time and a member of the Georgia School of Classicism led by J. Neel Reid. Originally schooled in dentistry, he abandoned it in favor of architecture in 1936, and soon joined the Atlanta firm of Hentz, Reid, and Adler. He briefly designed ships for the Navy in World War II at Savannah. After the war he opened his own firm in Albany. His renovations of the Diplomatc Reception Rooms of the U. S. State Department between 1965-1980 were well-received and one of those rooms is now known as the Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall. He also oversaw renovations in the White House during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. Other significant work include Gillionville Plantation, the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, and numerous residential commissions throughout the South.

Edward Vason Jones (3 August 1909-1 October 1980)

This Classical monument adorns the grave of Edward Vason Jones’s beloved daughter Nella. It is said to have been modeled after one of similar design in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery, which was destroyed by a storm in recent years.

Nella Vason Jones (23 August 1949-30 November 1968)

This is one of six nearly identical markers, made of local stone, in an eight-grave lot surrounded by coping of the same construction.

E. Louise Gilbert (4 August 1886-20 August 1887)

The figurative monuments of the Bell sisters, daughters of William S. and Texas Sheffield Bell, are typical of the Victorian era, when child mortality rates were nearly 33% higher than they are today.

Willie Sheffield Bell (24 January 1876-18 September 1880)
Fannie Sheffield Bell (24 September 1880-3 November 1891)

The monuments honoring two of the children of Dr. Palaemon L Hilsman and Ella G. Rust Hilsman are more examples of Victorian child mortality. Even in a family of doctors, the Hilsman children weren’t immune from early deaths.

Roy Hilsman (21 June 1878-4 October 1880)
Madeline Bower Hilsman (19 February 1882-15 April 1884)

The Greek Revival mausoleum of the Samuel Bernard Brown family [founder of the Exchange National Bank], in the Jewish section, is one of the finest in Oakview.

Samuel Bernard Brown (1 February 1855-21 January 1922) and family

Tomlinson Fort was Regents Professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department at the University of Georgia for many years. His son followed his footsteps to academia and chaired the Chemical Engineering departments of Carnegie Mellon and Vanderbilt universities. The Forts were descendants of Warrenton-born Tomlinson Fort (1787-1859; buried at Memory Hill in Milledgeville), an early Georgia medical doctor who helped establish the Medical College of Georgia and the State Lunatic Asylum. He was also a member of the Georgia legislature and the United States Houses of Representatives.

Tomlinson Fort (1886-1970) & Madeline Scott Fort (1908-1983)

John Porter Fort was the son of Congressman Tomlinson Fort. He dug the first artesian well in South Georgia and was an early booster of the apple industry in North Georgia. An early agricultural scientist, he was awarded a “Doctor of Science” by the University of Georgia.

John Porter Fort (16 August 1941-12 February 1917), detail of cornucopia relief

Nelson Tift, a native of Groton, Connecticut, was the founder of Albany.

Nelson Tift (23 July 1810-21 November 1891)
Tift Family Plot identification stone

Nelson Tift Monument, 2013, Albany

As part of an initiative to place more public art in downtown Albany, this sculpture of Nelson Tift was commissioned by the city and placed in 2013. Gayla Catrett is the artist responsible for the work.

The accompanying marble column notes: Nelson Tift settled the area as a commercial venture in 1836 in the hopes of establishing a cotton trade using the [Flint] river to transport the crop to market. He named it Albany, in honor of Albany, New York, which was also the head of the navigation on the river.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Tift was a man of his time, committed wholly to slave society, Tift worked tirelessly to protect both the party and the “peculiar institution.” Starting in 1841 he translated his economic leadership into political office, serving three terms in the Georgia legislature. He supported the reopening of the international slave trade as a means to extend ownership of enslaved laborers to all white Georgians and chastised white artisans for opposing the use of enslaved craftsmen. Although not an advocate of immediate secession he accepted the final decision and lent his services to the new nation. During the Civil War (1861-65), Tift built gunboats for the Confederate navy and supplied the Rebel army with beef and hardtack produced by his factories at Albany and at nearby Palmyra in Lee County.

Cedar Lane Cemetery, Hardwick

Three historic cemeteries (and two non-historic) are associated with the property around Central State Hospital, but without the efforts of employees who felt the lives of those who lived and died on these grounds deserved a dignified resting place, they would have most likely been lost to neglect. This post will focus on Cedar Lane Cemetery, which was historically known as the Asylum Cemetery. Within its 18+ acres are marble grave markers dating back as far as 1854. The exact date the cemetery was begun is unknown, but it was likely the late 1840s or early 1850s. The earliest burials of institutionalized people of the State Lunatic Asylum (as Central State Hospital was known at the time) were in Memory Hill Cemetery.

Thanks to the efforts of Bud Merritt and numerous volunteers, these metal “headboard markers” have been righted after many were buried over the years by bad management practices. I have talked extensively with Mr. Merritt about the process of “recovering” the cemetery and though he seeks no publicity for this enormous task, his insight and subsequent work on having the Central State Cemeteries added to the National Register of Historic Places, was crucial to their survival. Some of the markers are in their correct places, while others are not. All the markers feature a number that corresponded to a patient or prisoner’s name. It is a somber display, but makes one think of the conditions of those souls who spent large parts of their lives here.

At this time, I believe Cedar Lane is the only accessible of the Central State cemeteries. Typical of the time, African-American residents of Central State were segregated, even in death, and were buried in a cemetery of similar appearance.

As part of the process of reclaiming this sacred ground, a statue was commissioned and stands at the end of the lane of cedar trees which give the cemetery its modern name.

It was created in 2001by Don Haugen, a prominent sculptor who did commissions for U. S. presidents and other important figures. It is titled Angel of Milledgeville.

Central State Cemeteries, National Register of Historic Places

Recycled Sculptures at Sunrise Farm, Warren County

These recycled iron/scrap sculptures represent mythological and real creatures. I’m not sure who the artist is, but it may be farm owner Mark Chalker. You can’t help but notice them as you drive past.

Sea Horse

Sea Turtles

Octopus

Phoenix, or Firebird. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Phoenix is mine. (The octopus came in a close second).

Iron Horse, 1954, Oconee County

Sculptor Abbott Pattison designed the 2-ton, 12-foot Pegasus Without Wings in 1954. The work was first sited at Reed Hall, but was immediately unpopular with students, who attempted to melt it by burning tires beneath it. The protest was so unwieldy that the fire department had to turn their hoses on the estimated 700 students to gain control of the situation. As a result of the controversy, the sculpture was removed, stored for a time in a warehouse, and in 1959 transported by night to a field owned by UGA horticulture professor L. C. Curtis near the Oconee-Greene County line. The “Iron Horse” stands here today, and visiting it has become a rite of passage for many UGA students . I met two, who extolled the benefits of visiting the countryside and their love of the sculpture, while I was photographing.

The sculpture has become perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in Oconee County and curious visitors from all over stop by to pay homage these days. The sculpture can be hard to spot when the surrounding fields are full of corn or sunflowers, but a crude parking lot off the side of Georgia Highway 15 across from a UGA sign identifying the location as the ‘Iron Horse Plant Sciences Farm’ lets you know you’re in the right place. Recently, the fate of the sculpture has become unclear, as the family who owns it wishes to transfer ownership back to the university, while keeping it on the farm. The university doesn’t want ownership unless they can return it to the campus. I think nearly everyone who loves the Iron Horse would agree that it should stay just where it is. Hopefully, they can figure it out.