PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Since 1900, the Independent Man has only been removed from the top of the R.I. State House once to be repaired.
That was back in 1975.
12 News analyst Lt. Gen. Reginald Centracchio (ret.) was one of the dozens of Rhode Islanders involved in its removal.
“It was quite an ordeal to plan it and actually do it,” he recalled.
Independent Man taken down for repairs
Centracchio, who served as a major in the R.I. National Guard at the time, was tasked with unscrewing the bolts that held the statue in place.
“I was slim at the time,” Centracchio said, adding that he was one of the few who could reach the bolts. “We got up there, took it off and gave the signal for the chopper to lift it.”
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The statue was hoisted from the top of State House and lowered to the ground by a R.I. National Guard helicopter.
Once restored, Centracchio said the statue went on a brief public tour before returning to the top of the State House. That tour included a lengthy stay at the Warwick Mall.
But when it came time to return the Independent Man back to the capital city, the mall didn’t want to say goodbye.
“It didn’t go over too well, because there were a lot of businesses that wanted it [to stay there],” he explained. “We took it out [of the mall], but before we did that we created a replica.”
That exact replica still sits outside of the Warwick Mall to this day, giving residents and visitors a better idea of the side and shape of the original statue.
Independent Man set to be repaired — again
Though the Independent Man has stood the test of time over the last five decades, it is not immune to wear and tear.
For the second time in the state’s history, the Independent Man will soon be lowered to the ground for repairs.
“The Independent Man has weathered decades of storms, of blizzards and hurricanes, and now he will be restored to pristine condition to be enjoyed for generations to come,” Gov. Dan McKee explained.
McKee made the decision to take the statue down after drone footage revealed a crack in the statue’s marble base.
Centracchio believes McKee made the right call, but acknowledged that it will be a challenge to repair the crack, which is causing the statue to separate from the base.
“The worst possible scenario would be to take dome off and put another one up there,” he said. “I hope that isn’t the case … but whatever they do, they have to make sure it has good integrity so that we don’t have a catastrophe.”
McKee said the exact plans for the statue’s removal have not been finalized yet, but he expects it to stay on the ground for roughly a year.
It’s unclear where the statue will be displayed once taken down, though McKee said he is exploring options that would allow the public to enjoy it before it returns to the top of the State House.
The Independent Man was designed by artist George Brewster and cast by the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence. It’s covered in gold leaf, stands 11 feet tall and weighs more than 500 pounds.