Chief Wapello is home at last

Chief Wapello will remain in the courthouse until he's ready to be put atop the courthouse again.

Chief Wapello is home again.

The 450-pound statue was taken down from atop the Wapello County Courthouse in June 2012 after a strong storm swept through Ottumwa and severely damaged the statue. Since being taken down, Chief Wapello has been on display at parades and festivals across Southeast Iowa, then the work began.

He was taken to Omaha, Nebraska for repair, where he got a new layer of paint in a slightly different color, the bullet holes in his chest were fixed and the overall look improved so that viewers will be able to see items like his bow, arrow and quiver more clearly.

"One of the things that the artist pointed out to us is that if we don't use a certain color on it, then when you look up there, if the sun's in the wrong direction, all you'll see is a just an outline," said Jerry Parker of the Wapello County Board of Supervisors. "So making it the color that we made it, you'll be able to pick out all the little idiosyncrasies about it - the headdress and things like that from five stories up in the air."

Chief Wapello was brought from Omaha on Monday and carried into the lobby of the courthouse, where he'll remain for at least a month so the public can come see the changes.

"I think people should take time out to stop by the courthouse and take a look at him because once he's up, he's going to be up there quite a while," said Steve Siegel, of the Wapello County Board of Supervisors.

The last time Chief Wapello was taken down was 60 years ago and before that, 58 years, so it stands to reason that he'll be up there for a least a few decades. However, his new stainless steel support beams and stand promise to hold him up even longer.

There are still a few more things to figure out; parts of the old base remain on the roof of the courthouse, so those pieces must be removed before the chief is lifted by crane back up to his position.

The entire repair cost nearly $23,000 and was entirely covered by insurance.