One in Youngstown was stolen in 1965.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — At one time, you didn’t have to travel far to see replicas of the Statue of Liberty.
A slew of them — just over 200 in all — were placed in communities across the country by the Boy Scouts of America from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.
But age, weather and vandalism took their toll, and fewer than 100 still exist. Included in that number are two in Lawrence County.
“We are very proud to have one of only 100 left in the United States,” said New Castle Mayor Wayne Alexander.
The other one stands outside Lincoln High School in Ellwood City.
The little sisters of liberty each stand about 81⁄2 feet tall without a base.
Local Boy Scout troops placed these copper statues in 39 states and several U.S. territories to commemorate the national group’s 40th anniversary theme “Strengthening the Arm of Liberty.”
According to Boy Scout Troop 101 in Cheyenne, Wyo., a group dedicated to chronicling these statues, they were the brainchild of Kansas City, Mo., businessman J.P. Whitaker, then commissioner of the Kansas City area Boy Scout council. The replicas were manufactured in Chicago and sold through the Kansas City Boy Scouts.
Both Lawrence County statues went up in 1951, according to dedication plaques on both.
The New Castle one, located in Fox Park off Grove Street, has seen its share of problems over the years, but city officials believe it’s now in good shape.
In 1986, local businessman Eugene Smith led a campaign to refurbish it and have it cleaned.
Smith is deceased, but Ranier DeVido, a local stonesmith, was on the committee. He recalls raising funds to have the statue cleaned and installing its current marble base — much taller than its original base. It was rededicated July 4, 1986.
Despite that care, the statue blew over in a large windstorm in 2002, bending Lady Liberty’s arm.
Mike Rooney, New Castle’s director of public works, said it took several months to find a company to fix and clean the statue. He said they kept it indoors and put it back up later that year.
The Ellwood City figure also underwent some renovations as a project of Lincoln High School’s graduating class of 2005.
Nationwide, the statues have become a rallying point for Save Outdoor Sculpture!, part of Heritage Preservation in Washington, D.C.
In addition to grass-roots efforts to reclaim the statues, SOS! has encouraged the Girl Scouts to get involved by offering a patch for outdoor sculpture restoration.
The Girl Scouts dedicate a whole page of their 14-page booklet explaining how to earn the patch by saving the statues.
Unfortunately, there is no saving the replica that went up in Youngstown on Flag Day in 1951.
The replica was unveiled with much fanfare at Wick Park before 1,500 Boy Scouts, according to Vindicator archives.
But the statue was stolen in 1965 from its permanent spot on the campus of Youngstown College, now Youngstown State University.
Anthony Valley Jr., a former Boy Scout who wrote a history of Mahoning Valley Boy Scouts in 1993, recalls seeing the statue in the mid-1950s as a youngster when taking music lessons across the street from where it stood on Wick Avenue and Wood Street.
“There was a rumor that a college student took it as a prank,” said Valley, who now lives in Minnesota.
According to Valley’s book, there was a push by city officials in 1976 to replace the statue, but they could not find a foundry to cast it.