Vermont's Statehouse goddess statue taken down_in one piece

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A wooden statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, which has stood atop the Vermont Statehouse for 80 years, was lowered to the ground Monday as part of a broader project that will include re-coating the golden dome and the carving of a new statue.

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The Ceres statue was believed to be rotting and after a crane lowered it to the ground Statehouse Curator David Shutz touched it and remarked the statue, made of Ponderosa pine, was wet, but it was not falling apart.

The hand-carved Ceres was created in 1938 by former Statehouse Sergeant-at-Arms Dwight Dwinell, who whittled the head while the Statehouse custodial staff carved the body as a "not-so-faithful copy" of the first Statehouse statue, installed in 1859 when the Statehouse was first built, Schutz said.

Now the state is looking for an artist who will be able to replicate the 1859 statue, hopefully by the end of the year. It's part of a nearly $2 million project to renovate the dome of the Statehouse, including re-coating the dome with gold.

The new artist will "hopefully do a somewhat better job than Dwight Dwinell, with all due respect," Schutz said. "He was a folk artist as opposed to a fine artist. The statue that we are retiring today is a pretty wonderful piece, that happily we think we will be able to display in the Vermont History Museum."

The original 14-foot statue was approved by the commissioners overseeing the reconstruction of the Statehouse in January 1858, Schutz said. They picked the simplest proposals that incorporated symbols of farming, such as a plow and animals, he said.

The original sculpture was installed during construction of the current Statehouse. It was made of Vermont pine and when it was removed in 1938 it fell to pieces, Schutz said. The statue that was removed Monday was made of Ponderosa pine in hopes that it would last longer.

While it didn't fall apart, the Ceres statue lasted about the same time as the 1859 original statue.

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