Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Earthquake Survivors—Bronze and Beyond

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOCATION, LOCATION
Monthly Grounding of Writerly Antennae for IWSGers and Other SpaceTimers

Arcata Plaza, site of Saturday Farmers’ Market, presided over by McKinley bronze—before last week’s removal


Having been assassinated in 1901, one would have thought that statesman, lawyer and (Republican) 25th President of the U.S.A., William McKinley had paid enough for his sins…

But his century-old bronze effigy—which survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire—will be changing locations once again.

The story goes of philanthropist Georg Zehndner, immigrant merchant in frontier Weaverville, seizing an opportunity presented by the late 19thC Gold Rush boom in northern California, to become (wealthy) Humboldt County rancher and (Arcata) citizen. When the 25th President was shot in 1901, Zehndner commissioned Armenian-American Bay Area sculptor Haig Patigian—also an immigrant—to create the bronze casting of the downed statesman.

Market Street, looking west to Twin Peaks. Both sides of street lined with ruined buildings Battery-to-Powell

Arcata Plaza was chosen as a suitable site in the growing town—although currently lauded northernmost campus of Humboldt State University was not founded until eight years later. Yet it is HSU academic/radical protests of ‘settler colonialism’ and damaged Native American tribes which resulted in the statue’s removal at dawn last Thursday.
Arcata is Yurok/Wiyot = place of the Lagoon*
*Yurok oket’oh = “where there is a lagoon” (Humboldt Bay), from o- “place” + ket’oh = “to be a lagoon”. Same name given to Big Lagoon, ten miles North.

Neighboring unincorporated township of McKinleyville, CA has more claim to the beleaguered effigy than the University town, having willingly changed its name to mark its namesake’s death in 1901. Previously called Minor (aka Minorville), it was settled in the late-19thC logging boom. After the president’s assassination it joined with (unincorporated) townships of Dows’ Prairie (settled by Joe Dows, 1860) to North and Calville, settled by employees of the California Barrel Company, South, taking its new name in his honor. McKinleyville post office opened in 1903. The town remains unincorporated, and is home to California’s certified “foggiest” airport—Eureka/Arcata, ACV.

Abandoned and Pointing to the North
Downtown San Francisco was on fire, consuming trolleys and neighborhoods, with horse-drawn water carts unable to dowse the flames.

No melt-down—McKinley found undamaged after 1906 San Francisco fire, his finger pointing North


Coming full blast after the deadly earthquake, many residents ran—sculptor Haig Patigian among them. He saw the bronze casting works go up in smoke and thinking all was lost, fled.

“‘Come on, boys, let’s save the statue of Bill McKinley,’ he cried and under his inspiration the workmen bore a ready hand.” San Francisco Examiner 1906

A passing worker—employed by the Ironworks—saw that the statue would be ruined if abandoned, and called to his co-workers who were saving their own belongings. The Examiner wrote: “They dragged the heroic figure to the center of the street and there it remained unharmed, resting on its back”, with an outstretched hand pointing to the sky.

Returning to the scene, Patigian noticed a crowd gathering near the Works. He hurried over to find his art piece lying in the street—the rescue vehicle used to haul it to safety a charred wreck. Twelve days after the great quake, George Zehndner, Arcata businessman and benefactor who ordered the bronze, received a telegram from Patigian stating the effigy had been saved.

San Francisco City Hall’s surviving dome, 1906, McAllister Street and Van Ness Avenue in charred ruins

Haig Patigian was a respected artist in his day, at the time of his death called by the San Francisco Chronicle “one of the giants of San Francisco’s Golden Age.” Many of his works survive in San Francisco, including one of Abraham Lincoln outside City Hall, itself regenerated and reconstructed after the demise of its iconic predecessor, Chronicle Archive picture, right.

Zehndner paid $15,000 for the original sculpture in 1906—lost, mourned and then recovered unblemished from the glowing coals of the surrounding foundry.

One hundred thirteen years later the now-politically-incorrect statesman found a new home—in Canton, Ohio—where the local residents appreciate his other works—including a McKinley Memorial Library and Museum. The statesman’s 8-1/2foot 800-lb bronze likeness will find a public stance nearby.

Fickle Finger of Fate and Finance

Last week brought some kind of closure to the beleaguered bronze. Through fire, earthquake, flood and (occasional student) harassment, the skilled lost-wax bronze rendering of the late 19thC politician will not bite the dust.

East along Market Street after 1906 Mag.7.9 earthquake—lavish art-deco Call building burns to ground

This time it will rise again on another plinth in another guise: Canton was McKinley’s chosen home town. He had planned to retire there. Now he will.

In Canton, the townspeople have $15,000 to spend. That’s exactly how much its benefactor Arcata resident Zehndner paid for the sculpture in 1906. And Arcata has accepted.

Insecure Challenge and Update
We IWSGers know how Fate—and our writing Muse—tend to travel hand-in-hand. But there’s no telling how fickle financial finagling will affect any outcome.

IWSG question for March

Synchronously, we may therefore empathize with our fellow Insecure Writers in our March IWSG challenge/question

[choose one] Whose perspective do you like to write from best: the hero [protagonist] or the villain [antagonist]?
And why?

Now there’s something to get our [insecure] teeth into.
In McKinley’s case, he is both bad guy and good guy—depending on our —writerly/historical— perceptions.
Which would you choose?
Thanks, blog-Cap’n.Alex for allowing me such digressions 😉
©2019 Marian Youngblood

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March 5, 2019 - Posted by | art, authors, belief, blogging, consciousness, culture, elemental, environment, fantasy, fiction, history, Muse, nature, novel, popular, publishing, seismic, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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