Since 1979, Peter Wolf Toth’s “Redman” statue stood tall in Loveland. Scraping the sky at more than 30 feet tall, the statue of a Native American man carved in cottonwood watched over Lake Loveland until the early 90s and then west Loveland for nearly 30 years.
Now, he has been laid down.
The “Redman” statue was safely lowered onto its back Thursday, marking the end of more than four decades of it standing tall over Loveland. But while the statue will no longer rise into the air, it is going to stay exactly where it has stood since the 90s.
Toth created the statue in 1979 as part of his “Trail of the Whispering Giants” project, one in which the Hungarian-born American sculptor carved a statue for each state as well as a number internationally as a tribute to Native Americans across the country, according to a post from the Library of Congress.
The statue first watched over central Loveland at South Shore Scenic Park at Lake Loveland. But, when the statue began to deteriorate, Loveland’s Visual Arts Commission removed the piece for safety concerns and, in 1993, Pat Block offered to have it moved to her land, Rock Ridge Ranch, along U.S. 34 just west of County Road 29.
“I think it has been incredible, I have really enjoyed it,” Block said of having the statue on her land.
For the last 29 years that is where the “Redman” statue stood, towering into the sky right off the highway as people drove toward the Big Thompson Canyon. Block said she would often get people traveling the country who would stop in to talk with her about the statue.
“When they come here, they sometimes will stop and visit with me and talk to me about their pilgrimage,” she said. “It is always a thrill for them and of course I love the stories.”
Though, the years have been rough on the carving. Block said it has been struck by lightning several times, had rot infestations and stood against all elements. Several creatures have been attracted to the wood as well, with bees claiming the carving as their home multiple times and birds using it as a perch or as a pecking tool; holes reaching all the way to the top show the history of local woodpeckers.
At one point the headdress at the top of the statue began to come apart, and Block said a neighbor kindly helped keep it together with some baling wire.
“He has had nine lives, I’m telling you,” Block said.
And as time rolled on, the statue continued to deteriorate with the wind as a particularly pesky problem. Several years ago, Block said, an intense wind storm blew the statue to the side. She said despite the wind nearly blowing her over, she ran outside to try and take pictures in the event that he toppled.
The statue continued to stand, though, and another windstorm set him right. Yet while he survived the gusts, Block said it was at this moment she realized he needed to come down safely.
“I (would) hate for him to just fall over, implode at the bottom where there is no structure underneath him … and just crash to the ground,” she said, later adding “If I don’t do something, he is just going to fall.”
As three cables were attached to blocks surrounding the statue to ensure its safety, Block tried to figure out how she could safely lower the statue down onto its back without it falling apart.
This year, she said, the answer became clear. She said when she let the Barnard Construction Company use her pasture as a store yard for some large work materials for an unrelated project, they offered to help out in lowering him down.
Thursday morning, heavy machinery could be seen in the field in which “Redman” stood. For the first few hours of the day, crews worked at how they could lower the statue safely. First, it was wrapped at the base and at the top with a plastic wrap to help keep it intact.
By the early afternoon, the process of lowering began. Using several pieces of heavy machinery all at once, the statue was slowly lifted off of its concrete perch and the metal pole at its base and lowered onto its back on top of several large concrete slabs.
Todd Waymire, a general foreman with National Powerline who also helped in the process, said the statue was even heavier than he expected. He said the several-thousand-pound sculpture even overloaded the crane they used to help lift it of the interior beam at the base.
While Block was worried the process could spell the end of the statue, it remained in one piece and now lays safely on its back. She said it brought out more emotions in her than she anticipated.
“It was a thrill,” Block said of seeing the statue come down safely. “I was sad to see him go down but it was fascinating (to see).”
Friday morning, however, she said that looking out over her yard was difficult without the site of “Redman” in the distance.
For many who have worked on and taken care of the statue for the last several decades, seeing it come down has been a tough sight.
Don Diemer, who helped put the statue up and designed the base that it stood on, said it was sad to see it have to come down, adding it is hard when you “outlive your children.”
Sue Teumer, a gifted and talented teacher at Lucille Erwin Middle School, said that she and photographer Bob Campagna would often take students out to the statue to capture some photos; one black and white photo taken by a student many years ago even hangs on the wall across from her office to this day.
“It’s really sad, (but) on the other hand I appreciate it’s being made a big deal,” she said.
Campagna, a longtime Loveland photographer who moved to Iowa in the spring of 2021, said his years of taking students out to the statue was always an incredible experience, adding that “Redman” and Block did more for him than he did for them.
“There was an awareness and respect for it,” he said. “It is a structure that may expose a sense of awe and a sense of gratitude just by being in its presence.”
He said the statue, which he described literally and figuratively as “larger than life” show a sense of organic art in the artistic city of Loveland. He also said the statue is more than just something to admire, but a piece of history.
“It is a reminder of those who lived on this land before the white settlers came, to remember there is a long history that has happened in this area,” he said. “It keeps us humble because of the size of it; the magnitude and the deep history.”
Block said her hope is to hold a public ceremony next spring to honor the statue and what it has meant for Loveland over the past decades. While the specifics of that ceremony are not clear yet, Block said she is happy that, even though it isn’t standing, people can still see and enjoy Toth’s “Redman.”
“My hope is the people of Loveland and the tourists that look for him all the time will still be able to see him, just in a laying down state instead of upright,” she said. “He will still be enjoyed, it just won’t be the same. But he will still be there.”
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