This is Monumental
Traveling the world in the upper 48
By Kathleen Landis
Don’t fret if a European vacation isn’t a travel option. Instead, pack your imagination and head out to these six stateside replica monuments. After seeing them, you might just feel like you’ve done that Grand Tour.
Bit ‘o’ Blarney
No luck o’ the Irish or plane ticket to County Cork is required to kiss the Blarney Stone. You can smack a piece of the legendary rock right in Elmore Park, in the Texas Panhandle town of Shamrock. And kissing this stone requires a lot less work.
Nobody knows how the town’s piece of Blarney got to Shamrock, says David Rushing, director of tourism and Economic Development. What’s for sure is that Zollie Steakley, then Texas Secretary of State, dedicated it on St. Patrick’s Day, 1959 and that it’s encased in a three-foot high Kelly green cement cylinder.
“We haven’t ever had anyone run off with it, or steal it,” says Rushing, of the artifact. “It’s almost thief-proof.”
Greek to Me
If the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece, is on your monumental life list, hightail it to Centennial Park in Nashville, Tenn., for a flatlander’s view of the world’s only full-scale, detailed replica.
Nashville, known as the “Athens of the South” since the 1850s, earned its nickname as the day’s southern center of education and commerce. When the state celebrated its Centennial Exposition in 1897 in Nashville, city fathers approved a replica Parthenon, considered classical architecture’s highest form, as its centerpiece.
Nashville’s Parthenon faces east, just as the original does. The Naos, or East Room, houses a 42-foot-high gilded statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. There are also direct-cast plaster replicas of the original Parthenon sculptures, known as the Elgin Marbles, that once decorated the ancient building’s low-pitched gables.
The Elgin Marbles left Greece for England in the early 19th century, under the ambassadorship of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin. They’re on view in London’s British Museum.
David, the famous marble work sculpted by Michelangelo in 1504, stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia at the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy. The sculptor’s horned Moses, commissioned by Pope Julius II for his tomb, resides in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, in Rome. If Italy isn’t in your travel plans, folks in Sioux Falls, S.D., will proudly show you their bronze replicas — cast, they note, from the originals.
Sioux Falls native Thomas Fawick, who amassed a fortune as an inventor and automobile manufacturer, commissioned bronze replicas of these sculptures in the late 1960s. In 1971, he gifted one to Sioux Falls and the other to the city’s Augustana College.
Controversy surrounded the installation of the 17-foot, 7,000-pound unclothed David in downtown’s Fawick Park. To satisfy those who thought the sculpture was in bad taste and would taint moral values, David was repositioned with his back to traffic and screened from the street by trees.
You’ll find non-controversial Moses, whose horned head symbolizes wisdom and enlightenment, on a walking path just west of the Augustana student commons.
Professor and art historian Lindsay J. Twa of Augustana College notes with amusement that great Roman sculptures were frequently marble copies of Greek bronze originals that inspired the Renaissance masters. “Now, Sioux Falls has bronze copies of marble originals,” says Twa.
I’ll Take Paris
The famous Eiffel Tower, also known as “Dame de Fer,” or “Iron Lady,” was built of iron latticework, for Paris’s Exposition Universelle of 1889 that celebrated the French Revolution’s Centennial. The Boilermakers Local Union #902 built the Paris, Texas, version out of scrap materials. With a red Stetson topper, you won’t mistake the later tower for its namesake, but the icon-spoofer makes a charming faux-to opportunity.
Lean on Me
You don’t have to travel to Pisa, Italy, to see The Leaning Tower. You’ll find a smaller replica in the Village of Niles, Illinois. It doesn’t have quite the Pisan tilt and is a little undersized but if you’re not expecting a leaning tower to appear on your drive through Niles, this facsimile is pretty darned impressive.
The 94-foot tower, fabricated from steel, concrete and precast stone by local businessman Robert Ilg, started life in 1934 as a water storage container for an employee water park. Ilg outdid himself when he covered the water tower with a half-sized replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
He later donated part of his park property to the YMCA which is why the Leaning Tower YMCA building stands just north of the leaning edifice.
Denise Lam, Leaning Tower YMCA’s executive director, is the tower’s ad hoc spokesperson, distributing informational flyers to baffled travelers who wander in to the YMCA. Niles adopted Pisa, Italy, as its Sister City in 1991. Joe Annunzio, Chairman of the Pisa Committee, was there when a Pisan delegation visited in 2007 and saw the tower. “They all wanted to get their picture taken in front of it,” he says.