After 115 years, McLennan County officials say Themis has earned her retirement.
Crews worked Saturday to carefully pluck Themis, the one-armed, 18-foot Greek goddess of divine law from her 150-foot-high perch atop the dome of the stately county courthouse.
Instead of trying to replace her left arm and scales of justice that were blown off three years ago by 65-mph wind gusts, the 5,900-pound zinc statue will be trucked to Alabama, where an exact duplicate of the entire statue will be made from cast aluminium, officials say.
The new statue should be back in Waco in three to four months, county officials said.
“Maybe the new one will have the same twinkle in her eye as this one,” McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said as he watched for several hours Saturday morning as workers meticulously removed Themis with a huge crane.
Felton said county commissioners and others are in discussions about what to do with the retired Themis when she comes back from Robinson Iron Co. in Alexander City, Alabama, but most agree she should not be relegated to a dusty county storage facility.
“The statue of Themis was originally placed atop the courthouse in 1902 in accordance with a commissioners’ court directive that only statuary absolutely necessary and proper for adornment of the building be included,” said 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson, the county’s resident historian. “Over the 115 years she has been on duty at her precarious perch, she has weathered many storms, some above and some below the dome. While the county certainly got its money’s worth out of the statue, I hope it will be placed on public display and not warehoused.”
The last time Themis left her lofty post was about seven years ago, when she was painted and restored and the thin aluminum sword in her right hand was replaced. It was 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother who discovered that the sword was missing not long after he took office in 1999, and county officials found the missing long blade on the courthouse roof.
Besides the usual lawyer jokes that flow around the courthouse, jokes about justice, or the lack thereof, surfaced when Themis lost her sword. The jokes picked up again when the disarming wind storm stripped her of her limb and the scales of justice.
“Despite rumors to the contrary, justice is not being removed from the courthouse,” Strother quipped Friday, as work crews made preparations for Saturday’s removal.
County Commissioners awarded Montgomery Construction a $428,388 contract for the replacement of the Themis statue, about $62,000 more than the county expected to spend. That includes the cost of removing the statue, having it duplicated in Alabama and replaced on top of the courthouse dome.
Mike Anderson, general manager of Montgomery Construction, said the removal Saturday went just as planned. While it grew hotter as the day progressed, calm winds worked to their advantage, he said. They would have postponed the job if winds had been 25 mph or more. He said the winds were 8 mph on top of the dome.
The work crews had a larger-than-normal audience Saturday as curious patrons of the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, set up across Washington Avenue from the courthouse, wandered over to watch.
Peter Cappas, 19, was among six or eight workers who climbed to the top of the courthouse dome to connect Themis to a metal cage, which surrounded the statue for support as it was lifted to the ground.
Cappas and other workers worked on top of the dome for about two hours to secure the statue. He is obviously not bothered by heights and said he and the others were secured to the metal frame by 6-foot harnesses designed to catch them if they slip and fall.
He said it was his first time on top of a government building.
He and his crew normally work on power plants and in residential settings.