Save the Colonel! – Yakima’s Oldest Public Monument
On Independence Day, 1902, a monument was unveiled in the center of Yakima Avenue and Third Street of what is now downtown Yakima.
Over the last, nearly 110 years, it has fallen prey to the elements and is in need of restoration.
Having lived in Yakima since 1977, I had probably driven by this statue hundreds of time without ever stopping for a moment to find out who it was and why it was there.
Had it not been for my good friends Jan Lowell and Mike Isaacs, I still may not. They are spearheading an effort, in conjuction with the City of Yakima, the Yakima Arts Commission and the Yakima Valley Museum, to have the statue placed inside and have a sturdier replica cast to replace the original. (They even created his own Facebook page!)
Now, just who exactly is this person, carved of stone and peering over the city for the last century, and why should we care?
The statue depicts Colonel John Jacob Weisenberger, beloved commander of Company E of North Yakima, which fought during the Philippine Insurrection following the Spanish-American War in 1899. It is a tribute not only to the Colonel who led them in battle, but also a memoriam to the 10 soldiers and one nurse who fell during the conflict.
When the monument was revealed for the first time, many surviving members of Company E were present for the ceremony. At the base of the original statue was a water faucet for the public to drink from as well as a trough for horses.
in 1908, newly constructed tracks for streetcars down the center of Yakima Avenue forced the moving of the Colonel to the intersection of 2nd and B Streets in front of the new courthouse. In the 40's, it was relocated again to its present location in the Memorial Parkway of South Naches Avenue where it intersects with Yakima Avenue (kiddie-corner from the Y.M.C.A.)
The original cost of $1,500 was funded primarily through the sale of "lucky pennies" that were sold for $1 apiece. Each coin was numbered for a rafflling off of 646 prizes amounting to $800. Holders of the pennies also were able to vote on where the site of the monument would be.
The monument is now 110 years old and has seen the city grow and change. It even witnessed (see: above photo) the carriage of President Teddy Roosevelt pass by when he came through town, but it is finally showing signs of age. Chunks of stone have broken from the sculpture and crack show where new pieces will soon fall away. The dedication to Company E, carved on the base, is badly damaged with entire sections of text now missing.
Specialists in restoration have determined the "The Colonel" cannot make it much longer outside.
On April 17th, 2012, the Yakima City Council approved a community-led plan to move the monument to the Yakima Valley Museum where it will be displayed and preserved for posterity. A cast replica of the Colonel will be produced to replace it. The new statue will be made of granite and bronze which will ensure its survival for many more centuries.
You can see a history of the monument, as well as future plans for it, at a display inside City Hall.
Now, just like 110 years ago with the sale of "lucky pennies", the community must raise the funds needed to carry out the plan and preserve - not only Yakima's oldest public monument - but the memories of those who fought and died for our country from Company E.
If you would like to help "Save Our Colonel," you can make a gift via check (payable to: Yakima Valley Museum) or credit card (VISA/MC/Discover - Include: card #, expiration date, CVC code and your signature) and mail to:
Save Our Colonel
Yakima Valley Museum
2105 Tieton Drive
Yakima, WA 98902
R.I.P., Colonel J.J. Weisenberger.