The new Goddess of Commerce has a new home. On Aug. 31, as a crowd of history buffs, downtown residents and city of Tacoma employees looked on, the white tarp covering the statue was removed by two Tacoma Fire Department employees.
The original Goddess of Commerce was placed on top of a three-story building that housed Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce in 1985. Designed by C. Augustus Darmer, the copper statue was about seven feet tall.
The building was located at the intersection of South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. It was demolished in 1950 and the statue was hauled to a scrap yard and melted.
Dan Voelpel was a business columnist with The News Tribune when he became interested in the original statue in 2004. He spoke at the ceremony, recalling the time he first learned about the statue from a report done by a consultant hired by the city to study downtown retail. For the next two years he researched the topic. He learned about the foundry where it was made, the artist who designed it and the company that tore down the building.
Griselda “Babe” Lehrer, a local philanthropist and community leader, was intrigued by the tale of the original statue. She spearheaded a campaign to raise money to create a new one. Sculptor Marilyn Mahoney was selected for the task.
Once the statue was completed, organizers ran into difficulty finding a site to install it. A spot next to Carlton Center was considered, but it was deemed to close to Tollefson Plaza. The Welcoming Figure, created by Puyallup Tribe member
Shaun Peterson, was installed in the plaza last summer. Pierce Transit offered a spot in Theater on the Square on Broadway. Tacoma Arts Commission would not approve of that location.
Finally a small parcel of privately owned land at the corner of 6th and St. Helens avenues was selected. Area residents raised $15,000 to install the statue.
Voelpel noted that Darmer made another statue that still stands in Long Beach, Wash.
He looked back on the effort to create the statue and find it a permanent home.
“Today is something that I never imagined,” he told the crowd.
Port of Tacoma Commissioner Clare Petrich noted that the statue overlooks the port. It has cranes for earrings and holds a ship, which Petrich feels is fitting for a figure that represents business activity in a seaport city.
“She is powerful, she is here and she is part of us now,” Petrich remarked.
Mahoney said she was inspired by reading articles written by Voelpel. She has made one prior statue, a bronze mermaid at Salmon Beach. She noted the efforts of the many people who made this project a reality. “This is blind enthusiasm.”
Lehrer was the last to speak. “If there is one thing I have learned it is to dream big,” she said. “If you dream big, nothing is impossible.”
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