WHEELING - The statue has yet to be grounded, but plans to honor the architect of the restored government of Virginia are in place.
Travis Henline, West Virginia Independence Hall site manager, spoke to members of the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday regarding Francis Harrison Pierpont, considered the "Father of West Virginia." On the 200th anniversary of his birth year, a nine-and-a-half-foot bronze statue honoring Pierpont will stand on a granite base at the corner of 16th and Market Streets outside of Independence Hall.
The tentative date of installation is June 20. The day also holds historical significance as Pierpont was unanimously elected the first governor of the Reorganized Government of Virginia on June 20, 1861. As a result of Pierpont's efforts, West Virginia officially became a separate state on June 20, 1863.
PIERPONT PLANNING — Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. Executive Director Jeremy Morris and Travis Henline, site manager of the West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling, speak about Francis H. Pierpont at a meeting of the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday. A statue honoring Pierpont, who is considered the “Father of West Virginia,” will stand at the corner of 16th and Market streets outside Independence Hall. -- Rebecca Olsavsky
It will be the first public memorial to the politician in the state, as the only current statue of Pierpont stands in Statuary Hall in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
"We would not be West Virginians if it were not for Francis Harrison Pierpont and his efforts," Henline said. "It's about time we have a monument to this man in our state."
Bronze sculptor Gareth Curtiss of Montana designed the statue and is currently working on its construction. The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. has enacted a Pierpont Statue Fund to meet the $125,000 project budget - $90,000 for the bronze statue and $35,000 for the granite base. With $85,000 raised to date, about 70 percent of the goal has already been met.
"It's very important to remember your past as you move forward. ... This will always be the founding city of the state, and people need to be reminded of that when they visit Wheeling," said Jeremy Morris, Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation executive director.
Those interested in donating to the Pierpont Statue Fund can contact the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp.