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Former city hall gargoyles back in Parkersburg

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Michael Erb Bob Enoch, left, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, and Andy Hartleben, right, secretary of the Wood County Historic Landmarks Commission, flank one of two statues that once adorned the former Parkersburg city building and will now reside in the lobby of the Parkersburg Municipal Building.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Michael Erb
Bob Enoch, left, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, and Andy Hartleben, right, secretary of the Wood County Historic Landmarks Commission, flank one of two statues that once adorned the former Parkersburg city building and will now reside in the lobby of the Parkersburg Municipal Building.

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Two gargoyles which adorned Parkersburg’s former city hall prior to its demolition are safely at home in the Parkersburg Municipal Building.

The two statues are on display in the second-floor lobby of the city building, flanking the large bell which once hung in the former city building’s tower. The old city building, which stood at Fifth and Market streets, was razed in 1980.

The pair, which had been in storage in Virginia for the past 25 years, was purchased by the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society for $900 and brought back to Parkersburg with the help of the Wood County Historic Landmarks Commission which covered a third of the cost.

Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, said Thursday he was thrilled to see the statues back in Parkersburg.

“For 85 years they were on the city building where no one could see them, and then they were in storage for 25 years where no one could see them,” he said. “It may seem like a little thing, but I’m glad everyone can enjoy these now

Enoch said technically the two statues are not gargoyles, which are part of a structure’s drainage system and would vent water away from a building.

The two instead would be considered “grotesques,” statues carved with frightening visages and used as adornment.

Enoch said there is almost no information on the two statues, who commissioned them and who carved them. Consensus among area historians is the pieces likely were carved on site, but little else is known, he said.

The two pieces have changed in appearance somewhat over the years, with age and weather darkening them and making edges more rough. Still, Enoch said, for stonework which likely was carved around 1898, they are in remarkably good shape.

They also are heavy. Each statue is only about two feet tall, but weight more than 300 pounds a piece.

“We wanted to put them up higher for viewing, but they are so heavy we’ve not be able to lift them up onto anything,” said Mayor Jimmy Colombo. However, he said, there are no plans to move them for display outside of the lobby.

“Their life outside is over,” he said. “They’ve got a nice warm home now.”

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