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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The "Lancaster's Famous Female Sculptress" Story

Lion sculpture by Blanche Nevin.
It was an ordinary day.  My grandson Caden and I are taking photos of the street hockey rink where my youngest son and Caden's uncle Tad used to play in Reservoir Park on the eastern outskirts of Lancaster, PA.  Neat place with a heavy rubber floor with openings for drainage in case of rain.  
Stone engraved with the name of her father.
Two penalty boxes line the one side while team boxes line the other.  Took a few photos then headed toward the water tower on the east side of the rink.  As we approached the tower we found what we had come to the park to photograph.  A bronze lion sculpted by Blance Nevin in the late 1800s.  
The signature of George Ross is one of
four notable Lancastrians that surround
the lion statue.
Caden was excited when he saw water spraying from the mouth of the lion, just as it has for ages.  Blanche Nevin was born in Mercersburg, Franklin County, PA in 1841.  Her father, a theologian, teacher and minister moved his family to Lancaster County when he became the president of Franklin and Marshall College in 1855.  Blanche studied art in Philadelphia, the Royal Art Academy in Venice, Italy and at Carrara, Italy.  Blance was our nation's first noted sculptress as well as an accomplished poet whose most famous poem in 1895 was titled "Great-Grandma's Looking Glass."  In 1897 she restored the mansion of a house in Windsor Forge, in the nearby town known as Churchtown, and added a studio for her work.  
Sculpture of General
In 1889 she sculpted a statue of Revolutionary War General Peter Muhlenberg which now stands in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.  But, the residents of Lancaster know her for the two statues that she made that are on either end of Lancaster city.  The lion on the east side of the city and a sculpture of a horse drinking fountain that stands at the intersection of West Orange Street and Columbia Ave. on the west end of town.  The lion was first sculpted in brick mud.  Miss Nevin had two of her male neighbors in Windsor Forge help her haul a wagon load of brick mud or clay from a kiln near the town of Honey Brook.  The two men piled the mud on a platform of stones and cement in the front yard of Blanche's house at Windsor Forge.  The men then kneaded the mud until it became pliable, then Blanche began working on her sculpture, gradually forming the nose, mouth, eyes, ears and mane and finally the body of the lion.  
Sculpture at the intersection of
West Orange St. and Columbia
Ave. on the west end of town.
Artisans then made a plaster cast of the lion so they could form the bronze lion which we are standing in front of in the park.  The brick mud lion remained in front of her home in Windsor Forge until weather ruined it.  Along the side of the lion is a stone that reads: In Memory of John Williamson Nevin, Scholar, with the date 1905.  She sculpted the lion in memory of her father.  Earlier in our journey today, Caden and I photographed her other sculpture at Orange St. and Columbia Ave.  It is much less ornamental and smaller in size, but nonetheless amazing.  On one side of that statue is an engraving in stone honoring her mother.  Blanche died in 1925 and her obituary in the Lancaster newspaper stated, "The simple unpretentious neighbors of Miss Nevin never questioned her foreign ideas and eccentricities, but accepted her for the true, human qualities which she so abundantly possessed."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

On the side of the horse drinking fountain on the west side of Lancaster.
This is engraved on marble at the lion sculpture.

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