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Statue, plaza planned for Stark County Courthouse

Planning is underway for a $155,000 project to mark the spot where Theodore Roosevelt gave one of his first public speeches -- the Stark County Courthouse grounds, said Kevin Thompson, Dickinson State University Alumni and Foundation CEO.

A 7-foot-tall, $78,000 bronze statue of a 24-year-old Roosevelt will be erected in the courthouse lawn this fall, Thompson said.

"It's Theodore Roosevelt on a soap box with his speech in hand and then important factors in his life are located by his feet," he added.

Surrounding the statue and stretching across the courthouse lawn will be a plaza with benches and landscaping features, Thompson said.

"It's more to help beautify the courthouse and add significance to the bronze statue as well," Thompson said.

The Stark County Commission has expressed support of the project and hopes to contribute financially.

"They wanted a public space that would allow for people to enjoy the outdoors," Thompson said. "On a beautiful afternoon, courthouse workers or people downtown could enjoy having their lunch or coffee break or whatever around the statue and learn more about Theodore Roosevelt and other things."

Ken Zander, Stark County Commission chairman, is glad the project is being developed.

"It certainly supports past history of Stark County and in particular Stark County Courthouse grounds," he said. "It would balance the whole front of the building."

However, commissioners agreed to help fund the project with the help of Dickinson City commissioners, who have not decided whether to supply funds.

"I think that it is an interesting project in that it highlights Theodore Roosevelt," said City Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns. "Dickinson is the gateway to Medora and Theodore (Roosevelt) National Park and so certainly having a memento of his time here is important.

"What role the city will have in that is still to be determined as the project takes root and we see how they move forward with it."

Oltmanns expects commissioners will take a closer look at the project during May meetings, he added.

Zander said the county would likely still provide some funding if the city decided against it.

"I think we probably would because we've kind of said that, you know, we think it's an enhancement to the county property," Zander said.

How much money the county would provide either way has not been established.

Thompson said the Foundation is fundraising.

"Our goal is to have all the landscaping done by the end of August, first part of September so the statue can arrive in October," he said.

Roosevelt's age depicted on the statue is the age Roosevelt was when he gave the speech on July 4, 1886, Thompson said.

"This will be only the second bronze public statue that features him prior to him becoming president," Thompson said.

In a related matter, a letter discussing the speech from Dr. Victor Stickney, who DSU's Stickney Hall was name after, was recently discovered, Thompson said.

"In these documents that they're digitizing, they found a letter that he sent to the Roosevelts about how he was impressed by the speech, which is kind of neat," Thompson said. "You know, most people throw that stuff away and all of a sudden we found it, you know, more than 100 years later."