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Mount Rushmore

posted 3/21/2012 6:22:39 PM |
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tagged: straddle, news, history

Some interesting facts and history behind Mount Rushmore that I thought was pretty interesting.

It’s still Crazy after 65 years

Sculptor’s family fixated on carving of Sioux warrior.

CRAZY HORSE, S.D. — It was to be the largest sculpture in the world: a granite portrait of a Sioux leader on horseback whittled out of a mountain in the Black Hills. In scale and complexity, the carving would dwarf the imposing collection of presidential profiles on nearby Mount Rushmore.

As he started the Crazy Horse Memorial in 1947, short on money and manpower, Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor from Connecticut, promised the tribal leaders who had recruited him and the local residents who had scorned him that he was dedicating his life to the effort.

But he underestimated the scale of the undertaking. His promise, it turned out, was a multigenerational commitment.

The sprawling country clan Ziolkowski reared at the base of the mountain has spent the 30 years since his death honoring his final plea to continue the effort, to which he supposedly added, “But go slowly, so you do it right.”

Now led by his 85-year-old widow, Ruth, with the help of their 10 children and, more recently, their grandchildren, this eccentric family effort has plodded forward through doubts and controversy at a deliberate pace more in keeping with the age of the pyramids than the age of Twitter.

As the mountain carving effort begins its 65th year as one of the top tourist attractions in the state, few family members are deterred by their doubt that they will live to see it to completion.

“It’s their dream, and they’re going to get it done,” said T. Denny Sanford, a businessman and philanthropist who recently donated $10 million to the project. “I don’t care if it takes another 100 years.”

Though that commitment has been much romanticized, it also has been the focus of persistent criticism, most vocally from American Indians, who have long regarded the project with a mix of support and suspicion. Many complain that the family has made millions of dollars from a project that, while carrying the name and imagined likeness of Crazy Horse, has become more of a monument to the sculptor than to his subject.

Indeed, the bearded, mountain-man profile of Ziolkowski, who is buried on the grounds, is as ubiquitous as the stern visage of the Sioux leader around the visitor complex. And the

85 full-time staff members at the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation include more of his descendants (seven) than Indians (five), even though the nearby reservations have some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

“I’ve never heard a single Native American, not one, ever say, ‘I’m proud of that mountain,’?” said Tim Giago, the founder of Native Sun News in nearby Rapid City.

Now grooming her children to take over, Mrs. Ziolkowski, who still lives in the log cabin she helped build when she arrived here at age 20, remains the driving force behind the project.

Her focus on demonstrating progress on the mountain by completing the warrior’s face put to rest much of the persistent skepticism. Admission revenue ($3.8 million in 2010, thanks to a $10 entry fee paid by most adults) and donations ($19 million in the past five years) have reached record levels, according to the foundation.

The grandmotherly demeanor that Mrs. Ziolkowski uses with strangers masks a fierce, almost obsessive dedication, family and employees said. She personally answers every phone call to the foundation, writes a thank-you letter for each donation and almost never strays out of sight of the mountain.

And she has learned from the mistake of her husband — who boldly predicted that the project would take 30 years — to remain vague when asked for a timetable.

“Yes, it was bigger and harder than he thought it was going to be,” she said. “But we’ll keep working at it.”

Although the idea originated with Indian leaders — “this is to be entirely an Indian project under my direction,” Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota chief, wrote in a 1939 letter to the sculptor — Mr. Ziolkowski soon discovered that the Indians had little to give in money or labor, his widow said.

After just a year in the rugged wilderness, Ziolkowski’s first wife filed for divorce for neglect. Ruth, who had known him as a teenager in Connecticut and had followed him to South Dakota, had no such problems. They married on Thanksgiving so he would not have to take another day off.

“He was very honest,” she said. “He said the mountain comes first, I came second, the kids came third.”

Story link with a couple of pics

The Columbus Dispatch

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Mar 24 @ 10:57PM  
Well, this blog bombed.

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