If you have ever taken a walk on Main Street in Grand Junction, you have probably noticed all the statues and art that adorn the street. There are a few, nine to be exact, that have a particularly interesting history behind them. Locals Miffie Blozvich and Jacquie Chappell-Reid were kind enough to give us the insight behind these Legends statues and how Grand Junction became what it is today.
Funny enough, this all started because of a book entitled “Eclipse” written by Dalton Trumbo. It was first published in 1935. The novel is about a town, "Shale City" and its people thought to be modeled after Grand Junction. Trumbo lived in Junction from 1908 until he left for the University of Colorado in 1924. (Coming soon - Eclipse is also a locally produced musical.)
In 1935 the book was easily obtainable. For $3.00 you could get a copy at A. W. Hammer Drug Company, and a lot of people did. However, many Grand Junction citizens were upset at the book's popularity. Trumbo used fictionalized names, but these characters were so close to real people in our town that most people knew who the character was in real life. Because of this, some dirty laundry (or supposed laundry) was exposed to everyone who read it. Some were so upset that, rumor has it, a group tossed copies in the Colorado River or burned them.
The book caused deep wounds in our community, and because of that, the Library had a few copies under lock and key for a long time. However, in 2005 a small group of 13 got together to consider reprinting the book. At the end of the meeting, all were interested in seeing a valuable part of our town’s history come back to light. They also wanted to help the library, which they believed should be an active community organization, and not just a building with books in it. Up until that time, the library had tried to get an expansion bond passed, but the attempt had failed twice. Hopefully, this would help the library.
In the end, the book reprinting did help the library with $65,000 raised from book sales, and the project started to grow into something more permanent. Rather than just re-print the book, the Legends team started talking about commissioning a bronze sculpture of Dalton Trumbo. This was the start of the Legends of the Grand Valley Sculpture Project.
After searching for a sculptor, they chose J. Michael Wilson of Springville, Utah. Wilson admitted that he didn’t know who Dalton Trumbo was when he considered doing a sculpture of him. But it wasn’t hard to find the academy awards, screenplays, jail time, and other interesting stories of Trumbo. The sculpture is based on a photo taken of Trumbo, who often edited screenplays in his bathtub to relieve back pain.
Walter & Preston Walker
Walter Walker was a Kentucky transplant to our valley when he started with the Daily Sentinel as a reporter in 1903. For 50 years he recorded "Junction’s" progress over his career as a reporter, publisher, editor, and eventually managing the Daily Sentinel until his death in 1956. At that time, Walker's son, Preston, became publisher until his death in 1970.
The Daily Sentinel, being the main source of news for our community, was a key building block for our growing city, covering everything from social, political, and economic issues. During Walter’s career, not only was he a key part in covering and leading these topics, he was elected as a United States Senator for the Democratic party. He was delegated to every Democratic National Convention between 1924 and 1952. In 1932 he helped write the New Deal platform (the same year he served as a Senator).
Walker become interested in flying as a young reporter, and was instrumental in flight to the valley. He brought in leading daredevils (by train, because the planes couldn't fly over the Rockies), promoted aviation races, and pushed for funding to back an airport here in Mesa County, which was originally named Walker Field.
The rotating sculpture was created by Colorado native Michael McCullough. He lived and worked in the oldest and most historic building in Ridgeway, the old firehouse. He created 10 larger-than-life-size bronze sculptures. The Walkers was his last one. McCullough passed away on March 3, 2016.
William J. Moyer was born in Pennsylvania on August 21, 1859. When Moyer came to our valley he brought zeal and a philanthropist’s heart. In 1890 he founded The Fair Store at 501 Main St. Moyer also helped launch the Grand Valley National Bank and to establish the YMCA.
Moyer didn’t have any children himself, but was a big part of a lot of local children’s lives. He funded college expenses for 18 locals, one believed to be Dalton Trumbo. But one of the biggest gifts given to our community was a local pool. He donated $25,000 to build the pool which opened June 8, 1922. There was a stipulation for the funds though: that children always swim for free on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This was prompted because the tragic drowning of a local boy in the river. The Moyer’s felt there needed to be a safe place for children to enjoy swimming.
J. Michael Wilson the creator of the Dalton Trumbo sculpture was selected to be the Sculptor for the Moyer piece as well. Wilson named the sculpture “Never to be Forgotten”. Wilson used the cornerstone of the old YMCA as part of the base for the sculpture.
Sister Mary Balbina Farrell
Sister Mary Balbina Farrell and Sister Mary Louisa Madden were dispatched by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas. Father William Carr (the pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Junction) and Dr. Heman Bull requested help and the two Sisters came with a willing heart.
They would go door-to-door collecting funds to build a 10 bed hospital at 11th Street and Colorado Ave. Sister Mary Balbina Farrell also scouted for sites and drew up plans. They did this all in-between helping and caring for the many sick and injured children, farmers, railroaders, housewives, mothers, and everyone else whom the town’s few doctors could handle. On May 22, 1896, the Hospital had their opening day. The Daily Sentinel stated: “Here, without distinction as to race, creed or color, the afflicted at all times may find a refuge”.
"With Eyes of Faith" was sculpted by Greg Todd. Todd was Born and raised in Goodland, Kansas. Now sculpting in Greeley, Greg has received national recognition for his work. Todd has another local piece, “Legacy” installed in front of the Grand Junction Police Department.
The “Hermit of Monument Canyon” is what they called John Otto. In 1906 he made his way from Missouri to our valley to work as a “powder monkey” (someone who works with explosives) on the Fruita water pipeline crew. When he arrived, he found the area that is now known to us as the Monument to be a beautiful place that tourists from all round the United States would come to see. One of his biggest engineering feats was the Serpents Trail which snaked two-and-a-half miles up the monument with 54 switchbacks.
Otto loved conservation and working the land. He lived and worked with his dog Jim and horse Rowdy as companions. Despite animals as his companions he wasn’t known for being lonely. He was married to Beatrice Farnham at the base of the Independence Monument. But after two months she left, stating “I tried hard to live his way, but I could not live with a man to whom even a cabin was an encumbrance.”
He launched an exhaustive letter-writing campaign to local newspapers lobbying for the canyons to become a National Park. Being the driving force behind all of this, it made him a fantastic tour guide for the trails. All that effort finally paid off and on May 24, 1911, President William H. Taft declared the area Otto loved as the Colorado National Monument. Otto was named the monument’s first custodian at $1.00 per month. He held the job until bureaucratic realities became too much.
"Man With a Monumental Vision" was sculpted by J. Michael Wilson, his third work to grace Main St.
There are 4 pillars on the corner of 3rd and Main with photos and sculpted portraits. These pillars portray the community-wide effort that saved Main Street from the surge of shopping malls in the 1960’s. During that time many main streets and downtown areas became rundown because of the new trend of malls.
The portrait pillars feature the three key people who played a big role in Operation Foresight. City Manager Joe Lacy brought leadership to the project. Dale Hollingsworth, Chamber Manager, was key in pulling business together. And Leland Schmidt was appointed chairman of a citizen’s committee of seven who brought the rest of the local citizens together.
The fourth pillar is adorned in photos of the Main Street evolution from the early 1800’s to today. This evolution generated national publicity and won Grand Junction the title of All-American City in 1962.
"Building Community on Main Street" was sculpted by Ron Chapel. Being raised in Grand Junction he was a perfect choice for showcasing the efforts of those who made Grand Junction an All-American City. Chapel now resides and works in California.
Joe Prinster told his sons: “If you boys stick together and go over to Grand Junction and get into business, you can make a real thing out of it.” The brothers took their father’s advice and they really did make a thing out of it, with supermarkets in four states!
The brothers distinguished their City Markets from other stores by investing in the latest innovations, extending excellent customer service, and insisting on cash-and-carry. As well as keeping a focus on smaller, growing communities. With that focus, each brother brought his one expertise to the business. Paul, the oldest, was personable and negotiated well with ranchers to get the best deals on lambs, hogs, and cattle. Frank Sr. was always looking for new business and was the first one in the store each day. Leo had a leg amputated but he wasn’t going to let that slow him down. He was extremely driven and was known to conduct business out of his Cadillac. Clarence was the youngest and an artist. He headed up customer relations and was a founding member of the Western Colorado Center of the Arts.
"A Cut Above" was sculpted by James Haire and placed in front of where the City Market headquarters used to reside. Haire was born in Indiana but grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. In 1982 he moved to Colorado and pursued sculpting full time. He has made more than 30 life-sized sculptures throughout the country.
Chet & Vernie Enstrom
Chet’s World Famous Almond Toffee has brought much acclaim to Grand Junction. In 1929 Chet and Vernie loaded up their Model A Ford and left Colorado Springs to found Velvet Ice Cream Company in Grand Junction.
While cooking toffee to flavor butter-brickle ice cream, Chet played with the recipe and created a season-expanding addition to ice cream. After this discovery, Chet and Vernie launched Enstrom Candies with their new Almond Toffee recipe.
Chet was not only an incredible candy maker but a visionary community leader who gave his time and expertise willingly. He served as a City Councilman and Mayor of Grand Junction. He sponsored many important bills as a State Senator (of over eight years). Including one that led to Mesa Junior College becoming a baccalaureate institution.
"Mixing a Legacy" was sculpted by Karen Jobe Templeton. Templeton was born in Pennsylvania and worked as a nurse for a lot of her life. She has been interested in art ever since she could hold a pencil.
Broadcaster and community leader, Rex Howell loved broadcasting stories of the Grand Valley. He was fascinated with radio from childhood all the way through his career. Howell was from the Denver-area and visited our valley on vacation. He became intrigued by the area’s possibilities here. In 1931, Howell relocated to our area and started KFXJ at a high point in the Hillcrest Manor to the north of Grand Junction. In 1954, Howell was able to see the power of television and started Channel 5 by retrofitting a small basement TV studio in the existing radio headquarters.
Howell also served as a Colorado State representative. He was also the first president of the Colorado Broadcasters Association.
Sculptor Tim Schwander was selected for Rex Howell’s statue.
When speaking with Miffie and Jacquie, they pointed out that the sculptures aren’t about memorializing local people, “Even Sister Mary Balbina Farrell’s sculpture was criticized,” they said, “It's about remembering local history, not really about honoring specific people”.
We would like to thank Miffie and Jacquie for all the information they provided for this article.