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Lithia Park Lincoln loses his head again

Pranksters mutilate the much-maligned marble statue that was restored in 1991

The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Lithia Park has once more fallen victim to vandals.

Last week, vandals shattered the marble figure's head, which was restored in 1991 after a previous vandalism incident, and now park officials are seeking a fix-it artist to repair the statue once more.

When I started here 25 years ago, he was in storage without a head, Ashland Parks Superintendent Steve Gies said.

Now Gies has two pieces of the back of Lincoln's head on his desk and feelers out in the arts community to find someone who can do for Lincoln what all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't do for Humpty Dumpty.

Last time around, the city paid local artist Jeffrey Bernard &

36;8,850 to put the sculpture together again, the archives show.

— That time the damage happened in 1967 and Lincoln's headless body spent more than two decades in storage before Bernard fashioned a new head for the sculpture originally created in 1912 by Florentine artist, A. Frilly. The solid marble head was attached to the body with a metal rod. The repaired statue was unveiled on Lincoln's birthday 1991 in its present location at the entrance to Lithia Park at the Plaza.

The statue's original home in the park was in a sycamore grove near the Butler-Perozzi fountain, which was donated in 1916 by two Ashland businessmen, Gwin S. Butler and D. Perozzi. They bought the fountain at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition, a World's Fair held in San Francisco, for &

36;3,000 and gave it to the park.

At the same time, Butler donated the &

36;2,500 statue of Lincoln in memory of his stepfather, Jacob Thompson, an Oregon pioneer whose name is inscribed at the base of the statue along with 1847, the year he moved to the area. Newspaper records report that the statue was moved to the park entrance near City Hall in the 1950s.

When the refurbished sculpture was reinstalled in 1991, officials placed it slightly closer to City Hall and farther from a tangle of ivy in hopes of discouraging vandalism that could happen in a secluded area, Gies said.

Since then, Lincoln has weathered the indignity of mischief-makers dressing him in funny hats and other accessories, as well as the occasional defacement with paint, but no serious damage, Gies said.

Last week's damage, reported to police early Wednesday, happened the same night one park bench was broken and another bench was tossed into a pond, Ashland police said. The police investigation remains open.

Susan Dyssegard, office manager at the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, said people are beginning to open their wallets to restore the statue.

I just got back from lunch to find a citizen had left a &

36;50 check to help with repairs, she said.

Dyssegard said officials have tried to reach Bernard to see if he is still doing sculpture repair, but don't yet have a estimate on how much the fix might cost. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Ashland Parks Foundation, 340 S. Pioneer St., Ashland.

Lithia Park Lincoln loses his head again "aburke@mailtribune.com.

The Abraham Lincoln statue at the entrance to Lithia Park is once again headless thanks to a vandal. The city is soliciting donations to repair the marble statue. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell