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Pittsburgh's Stephen Foster statue, scrutinized as racist, comes down

PITTSBURGH — The statue of composer Stephen Foster that had stood in Schenley Plaza in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood since 1940 was removed Thursday morning.

PHOTOS: Stephen Foster statue removed from Pittsburgh’s Schenley Plaza

Controversial for its portrayal of Foster, a Lawrenceville native, with an African-American man seated below him, the bronze statue has been scrutinized as racist for years.

Pittsburgh's Art Commission decided with a unanimous vote on Oct. 25 that the 10-by-4 foot statue, which sits on a granite base, would come down within six months. Under city code, the Art Commission is responsible for overseeing the alteration, relocation or removal of all city-owned art.

Crews used a backhoe to remove the statue from its base. It was then loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away.

The statue itself was estimated by crews to weigh about 800 pounds and the base between 6 and 7 tons.

"I had my three iron workers here. I had a carpenter and a cement finisher," said Tom Samstag, acting supervisor of the construction division in Pittsburgh.

RELATED: Pittsburgh artist painting over Stephen Foster mural

Talks are ongoing to find a new permanent home for the Foster statue. In the meantime, it is being moved to a Department of Public Works facility for storage.

The Art Commission has given the city exactly one year to find a permanent display space for it.


Before being placed in Schenley Plaza, the statue, by sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, was unveiled in Highland Park in 1900. Moretti also created the panthers on Schenley Park’s Panther Hollow Bridge and the sculptures at the entrance to Highland Park.

"This isn't the first time the statue's been moved. This is the second, and we want to find a location where there won't have to be a third," Peduto said.

The Schenley Plaza site that had been home to the Foster statue will not stay bare. Mayor Bill Peduto’s office has been seeking public input in the selection of an African-American woman to be honored with a statue.

STORY: Pittsburgh to replace Foster statue with monument honoring legacy of African-American women

The following women are being considered (CLICK HERE to participate in the survey and learn more about them):

  • Catherine Delany
  • Madam C.J. Walker
  • Jean Hamilton Walls
  • Mary Cardwell Dawson
  • Selma Burke
  • Helen Faison
  • Gwendolyn J. Elliott

"We have a task force that's been working on public art throughout the city and they found there are no depictions of African-American women in statues anywhere in the city and the thought is to build one here," said Tim McNulty, communications director for Pittsburgh.