Back to its original home on Route 5, the Whispering Giant statue on Lake Shore Drive has been restored by artist Peter Wolf Toth. While the restoration is complete, there is still work to be done.
Ever since Gina Kron, local Tim Hortons owner, contacted Toth to come to the city of Dunkirk to restore the statue, she has advocated for an enclosure for its protection. With a western New York winter near, now, more than ever, an enclosure is needed, Kron said. Funds are still being sought to cover the cost of the proposed enclosure which is slated to be erected before the snow flies.
The rendering for the structure was completed by Seneca Nation of Indians Special Projects Planner Ben Anderson and the Community Planning and Development Department. Anderson and the department donated their time to complete the rendering of the open air pavilion.
Included in the plans is a picnic area behind the statue, landscaping and an entranceway. To accommodate the entranceway, the statue will be moved back several feet from its current location. The design also calls for an overhang to protect the head of the statue.
“It’s going to protect it from the back, the sides and also from the front. Most of the rain and the wind comes from the direction of the lake. It’s going to be well protected,” Kron said.
The project has been a collaboration of the Dunkirk Chamber of Commerce, the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation and the SNI. Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the Dunkirk Chamber has applied for a grant through the NCCF to help cover the cost of the structure. The final decision on the grant application has yet to be determined.
“(The city) was extremely excited when Gina was able to get the original artist back here to refurbish the statue. The goal was to make sure it’s enclosed and protected with minor upkeep in the coming years. Knowing the statue will be protected is a great idea,” said Dolce. “I really love the design. It’s appropriate and will really be a nice addition next to the water plant.”
Dolce said the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Kron and the community have been eager to see the statue enclosed. If the statue were to stay outside in the elements, the statue may not be able to be restored again.
“Since the wood is so thin now because we had to hollow (the statue) out, if we do not take care of it and cover it now … if it falls into disrepair later, it will not be fixable. That’s why it is so important to cover it now,” Kron said.
Originally there was discussion of enclosing the statue in Plexiglas but Toth wants his statues to be accessible to the public. There was also discussion of moving the statue indoors but since its location is available online, Kron said it could not be moved from its original location.
“The actual statue is a living breathing piece of wood. We can’t really enclose it, then we’ll have problems with rotting. The artist, Peter, felt that people should have a full view of the statue. People can still get their picture taken with it; people travel from all different states to do that. We didn’t want to enclose it so much so they couldn’t see it,” she said.
“We wanted to get it back out into the public so that people driving could see it, people coming through town could see it. It’s also on the Internet where to find it. You’d hate to have them drive all the way down on Route 5 to see it and have it to not be there, have it covered or closed up,” Kron continued.
While there are plans to start construction soon, funds are still being raised for the project. If the grant is awarded, that will cover the majority of the cost, but extra funds are still needed. Donations can be made to the NCCF c/o the Whispering Giant, 212 Lake Shore Drive West, Dunkirk. All donations are tax deductible. Donations taken after the enclosure is built will go toward regular maintenance expenses of the statue.
While Kron has been working on the restoration since the beginning, she said she has “mixed emotions” about it finally coming to a close. She said that most of the money raised from the beginning for the restoration has come from private individual donors. Kron is proud of the community for coming together to support the restoration.
“What we’ve really accomplished is restoring a piece of our history. People can look at that statue and they remember when it was done. Now they’re going to remember when it was refurbished. I’m really proud of that,” Kron said.
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