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Giant Iowa City statue finds its forever home. Again.

Land swap required 110-ton piece to be moved

A giant stone statue - first called #x201c;Man on a Bench#x201d; and now called #x201c;Sitting Man#x201d; - sits last Tu
A giant stone statue — first called “Man on a Bench” and now called “Sitting Man” — sits last Tuesday atop a hill at Harvest Preserve along Scott Boulevard in Iowa City. The 110-ton statue was moved from land that Doug Paul swapped with nearby ACT. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — The thing about 20-foot-tall, 110-ton limestone statues — like Doug Paul’s — is they tend to stay put.

“It was not made to be moved,” said Paul of the gargantuan statue overlooking Scott Boulevard, first called “Man on a Bench” but now called “Sitting Man.”

But after five years of sitting stony-faced and gazing west over Harvest Preserve, both the man and his bench were on the move this month.

Last October, Paul — who designed “Man on a Bench” and carved it over the course of a year alongside local stonemason JB Barnhouse — completed an exchange of 170 acres with ACT. Paul gained land west of his 100-acre Harvest Preserve and ACT got a stretch of land that goes from its campus along the north and east side of Scott Boulevard.

The only thing atypical about the land swap is it required Paul to move the statue from the east side of Scott Boulevard to his newly acquired land on the west side of Scott. Once again, Paul enlisted the help of Barnhouse, who opened Country Stonemasons in North Liberty in 2003.

While Paul told The Gazette in October he wasn’t quite sure how the statue would be moved, Barnhouse said this month he had no doubt it could be done.

“We were 100 percent confident in the fact that we had the ability, the tools and the team to get it done,” Barnhouse said.

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Barnhouse and Paul also enlisted Ockenfels Crane Co. and Bockenstedt Excavating Inc. to get the job done. Crews started last Tuesday, were delayed by weather midweek, but had the statue moved and reassembled by Friday.

The movers faced one challenge right out of the gate. The 11 blocks of carved Indiana limestone that make up the statue are connected by stainless steel pins to keep the pieces from shifting.

“The sculpture is held together by gravity,” Paul said. “The pins are simply to hold it in place.”

Barnhouse said a pin in the shoulder “just did not want to let go.”

“It was doing its job,” Barnhouse said. “Finally, it gave up and came out.”

After that, the move “could not have gone smoother,” Barnhouse said. From there, the statue was moved block by block from one side of Scott Boulevard to the other on the back of trucks.

Paul said he had faith in everyone he entrusted with moving the statue, but admits it was “anxious work.” He had a couple of contingency plans in place should anything go awry.

“If we broke it in the wrong places, it would just become an abstract,” Paul said. “The other option I was well-prepared for was, if one of the stones broke, I would just order a new stone and carve it again.”

Ultimately, the sculpture sustained no major damage in the move. Barnhouse said there were a couple of “blow outs” — damage to the stone that occurs when lifting and the load isn’t level. The worst was a dinner plate-sized one in the stomach that will be repaired.

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Barnhouse — a graduated of London’s Building Crafts College — employed a few other tricks of the trade in the move.

For instance, since there was no way to get the straps used for moving out from under the 43,000-pound bench when it was placed, Barnhouse and his team sat the bench on ice slabs formed in pie pans. That allowed the crew to get the straps out before the ice melted, and the bench settled into place.

Some finish work on the statue remains and Paul said he’ll plant grass around the statue and take out the service road he put in to facilitate the move. But now, the renamed “Sitting Man” sits in his new home, looking east and watching the sunrise over Iowa City each morning.

“The statue is now on Harvest Preserve and will be on Harvest Preserve forever,” said Paul. “I say that thinking he would have been forever where he used to be. ‘Forever’ is a variable term.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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