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…
Looking up toward Mercury, inspectors are hoisted up in a bucket to get a good look at the Rochester landmark.
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.
At the time, it was described as the largest copperplated statue in America. Mercury quickly became the hallmark of Rochester’s Skyline.
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.
In 1973 our old friend was re-introduced to the skyline – this time atop the Aqueduct Building, one block north of its original home.
Mercury was the Roman version of Hermes, the Greek god of messages, eloquence and of trade, particularly of the grain trade (fitting for the Flour City).
He was usually depicted wearing winged shoes, a winged hat, and carrying the caduceus, a herald’s staff with two entwined snakes. In Greek mythology, the staff was a gift from Apollo.
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.
Alright sir, time for your checkup…
Let’s have a peek under your wings.
Now turn your head and cough for me.
What happens if I give this a tug?
Hmm… that’s going to need a prescription.
Here’s a closeup of that bag of gold.
Looks like a little fungal thing happening here.
Looking good, big guy. Eat right, get regular exercise, and you should be good for another 130 years.
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
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014 at 12:14 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Reader Submitted Stories, Rochester Images, Urban Exploration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
A superb series of photo, especially looking down with the Genesee River as the backdrop.