No rush for Sir Walter's return

Icon's on ice until Raleigh picks site

Staff WriterSeptember 8, 2006 

— A year ago, Sir Walter Raleigh postured on Fayetteville Street Mall with a Renaissance man's swashbuckling air, sleeves a-billow, bronze beard gleaming.

Today, he keeps a lonely vigil inside a bronze foundry, waiting to come home from Cincinnati.

Raleigh's downtown is getting more attention and investment than at any time in three decades, but its peacock of a statue is offstage. For a year, bronze worker Mercene Karkadoulias has attended the courtier in exile, buffing his tarnished finery while Raleigh forged ahead. "Mostly his beard," she said Thursday. "His beard is very intricate."

She can't put the last touches on the 11-foot Elizabethan until she gets a summons for his return. None has come. "I want to know exactly what I'm supposed to do with him," she said. "I placed at least half a dozen phone calls."

The state owns Sir Walter, who stood at Fayetteville and Morgan streets 18 years, facing the Capitol. Raleigh has him on permanent loan, and the city and state split the $15,000 renovation cost.

But the state can't tell the artist when to ship Sir Walter until the city tells it where to put him, said Jeff Crow, a deputy secretary at the Department of Cultural Resources.

Cars rush through Sir Walter's old perch. The city, meanwhile, is trying to arrange a more modern attraction: Jaume Plensa's $2.5 million piece.

Whither Sir Walter?

"I don't think anybody's actively working on anything," City Attorney Thomas McCormick said.

Sir Walter can take hope by asking any exile -- Odysseus at sea, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Vermont -- about redemption's sweet taste.

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