The artwork is part of the Thomas Jefferson memorial in front of the mayor’s office on Jefferson Street. City officials don’t know how long the scales have been missing, but an archive photo from 2008 shows them intact while a photo from 2010 does not.
Fischer says anyone with information about the scales should contact MetroCall 311 as the city tries to locate the piece.
“Our fear is that someone has sold the scales for scrap. I’m asking local antique stores and scrap metal shops to check their inventory for the artwork. Perhaps an unknowing citizen has purchased the scales from a dealer or another person, not knowing their historic value to the city,” he says.
The cast bronze artwork is an allegorical sculpture of Jefferson that was dedicated in 1901 after being presented to the Board of Park Commissioners by Isaac and Bernard Bernheim.
It depicts Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence and standing on a replica of the Liberty Bell. Four winged female figures surround the base of the bell representing different democratic values—Liberty, Equality, Justice and Brotherhood of Man and Religious Freedom.
Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, is a local historian who conducts tours around the city and was the first to notice the scales were gone. He says the theft defaces a historic structure that the city cannot replace.
“Oh, I hate the thought of them missing forever,” he says. “One of the challenges is the aging of the bronze. It would be hard to replicate. I’m hoping either privately or publicly we can raise money if we can’t find the missing pieces that we would put them back because monuments are stories in progress, they are living stories and there are very vital stories to be told in that particular monument, which just happens to be my favorite in the entire community.”
Owen says the case underscores the growing concern over scrap metal thefts, which have been up in recent months and pervasive in some neighborhoods.
The city recently inventoried all its public art and last year the Metro Council approved the creation of the Commission on Public Art. The commission is developing a database and collection management system for public art, determining a conservation plan and setting policies and procedures for new artworks.