This Place in History: Ceres II

Vermont History

MONTPELIER, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in the Snelling Room at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re talking about the statues on the top of the Vermont State House. The first statue went up in 1859 and it was the Embodiment of Agriculture, later to be known as Ceres, the Roman God of Agriculture. It was on the State House for 80 years, but it was made out of wood. Wood rots. We have harsh winters here in Vermont. It was falling apart and needed to be replaced,” recapped Perkins.

“Ceres number two. I don’t want to give anything away, but she is kind of looking at us, or a piece of her is. In the 1930s they saw that she was just falling apart. There was no way they could save it. It had to come down. The state legislature appropriated some money to have another sculptor do it, but we’re also in the Great Depression and Vermont frugality won out.”

“There was this guy. His name was Dwight Dwinell. He was the Sergeant at Arms of the Vermont State House. He was 80 years old and he said, you know what, I can carve a statue for the top of the State House. The governor at the time, Governor Aiken said great, go for it. So the 80-year-old Sergeant at Arms of the State House, in a workshop out back, carved this head for the statue.”

“A couple of his workmen nailed and glued together Ponderosa Pine planks and carved out the body. You know, if you look at the drawings and images we have of Larkin Mead’s statue, you can see this is a much rougher treatment. We can call it folk art. This was an untrained craftsman, a hobbyist carver, who created this head. In a way, it’s an embodiment of the 1930s. It’s got this art deco look to it. It’s a really neat statue, I think,” added Perkins.

“Vermonters fell in love with it. And it was on top of the State House for yet another 80 years before it started to rot.”

“This is a great box. I’m going to open it up. These are Dwight Dwinell’s tools. When his family heard the statue was coming down and what was going to happen with it, they said they wanted to donate his tools to the Vermont Historical Society. These on top are the carving tools he used to carve the statue that was on top of the State House. It really was a portable workshop and these are all the tools he used to maintain the State House for many years, from 1917 to his death in 1940,” said Perkins.

“We’ve completely re-installed the Snelling Room. All sorts of great paintings are on the wall and then we’re telling the whole story of all three statues from the State House.”

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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