Plans to restore Morris statue move forward

CHEYENNE — The statue of Esther Hobart Morris that stood outside the state Capitol for years will soon be restored to its original quality after the Capitol Building Restoration Oversight Group passed a motion to fund it during its final meeting Wednesday afternoon.

But there was no discussion about possibly returning it to its previous location. Several local residents have lobbied unsuccessfully for it to be moved back in front of the Capitol.

The well-known statue, which now sits in the Capitol extension along with a statue of Chief Washakie, has been in need of restoration since it was struck by cars multiple times in past decades.

Wyoming State Museum Director Mark Brammer said the statue will need to be moved to an out-of-state location to ensure the restorations are done properly.

“The work that was done when it was hit by a car was not the best, let’s say,” Brammer said.

The total cost to transport and restore the statue would be roughly $20,000, Brammer said.

Group Chairman Tony Ross noted there is currently no money in the budget to fund the restoration.

In turn, the group approved a motion recommending the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee find a way to fund the work.

Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, and Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, who co-chair the Joint Appropriations Committee, also are members of the Capitol Building Restoration Oversight Group.

During the meeting, Gov. Mark Gordon asked if the restoration could happen before the legislative session starts Feb. 10.

“That would be a big stretch,” Wyoming Division of Cultural Resources Deputy Director Sara Needles replied. “I really doubt that anyone’s going to be able to stop doing what they’re doing currently or to take that on as an emergency project.”

The motion also included funding for the Chief Washakie statue. It won’t need a comprehensive restoration, as only a broken feather on the statue’s headdress will be restored at a cost of roughly $1,800.

During the meeting, the group also rejected a motion from former Laramie lawmaker Phil Nicholas to have administrators develop a plan to potentially add two statues on the south side corners of 24th Street in front of the Capitol.

The motion did not include any appropriations, and Nicholas argued the motion would allow the state to simply look at its options. Yet the motion failed due to some lawmakers’ hesitations over the proposed location for the statues.

“I just think we’re a bit premature, so I’m not going to support it,” Bebout said.

Wednesday marked the final meeting of the Capitol Building Restoration Oversight Group, which was in charge of the Capitol renovation project that cost more than $300 million and took four years to complete.