On Facebook last week I shared an old photo of Rochester’s iconic Mercury statue as it was being removed from its original perch atop the Kimball Tobacco Factory in 1951. The factory was demolished to make way for the War Memorial and the statue sat in storage until the Lawyers Cooperative (Aqueduct Building) became his new home in 1973.
Fast forward to June 2011; the 21 foot tall, 700 pound statue gets a thorough inspection for signs of wear and a good restoration. The following photos were taken by Wes Plant during that checkup. And they show Mercury in detail you’ve probably never seen before…
In 1881, young sculpture Guernsey Mitchell was commissioned by his brother-in-law, William Kimball, to create a decoration for his new tobacco factory’s smokestack. The Kimball Tobacco Factory was located at the corner of Court Street and Exchange Street.
Cluett-Peabody & Company acquired Kimball’s building in 1905 for the production of its linen shirt collars. By the 1930s, the City had acquired the property, with the help of George Eastman. The factory building was used for several City functions, including as the central branch of the public library, until it was demo’d in 1951 to become part of Rochester’s new civic center. The statue was moved to a warehouse in Charlotte.
The pose chosen by Mitchell—poised on one foot, one arm pointed toward the heavens—was borrowed from the work of Giambologna .
Mercury was also considered a god of abundance and commercial success. To emphasize this characteristic, and to reflect the success of his brother-in-law’s business, Mitchell added a bag of gold to Mercury’s right hand.
Here’s something you wouldn’t notice while standing on the ground… from this vantage point we can clearly see that Mercury is supported by a zephyr. In Greek mythology, Zephyr was the gentle wind of the west and the interceder between the world of the living and the underworld. Zephyr also brought the spring rains that were so valuable for awakening the nature.
Thanks to Mark O’Brien for sending these photos!
Tags: aerial photography, Aqueduct Building, Blue Cross Arena, Cluett-Peabody & Company, downtown Rochester, J. Guernsey Mitchell, John Siddons Co., Kimball Tobacco Factory, Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company, Mercury statue, public art, Rochester, Rochester NY, rochester photos, Statue of Mercury, War Memorial, War Memorial Arena, William Kimball
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