Four statues proposed for S.D. Capitol dome: The U.S. presidents from Mount Rushmore

Capitol News Bureau

NOTE: This story was corrected to say the statues would be in alcoves on the Capitol dome, rather than in the rotunda.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem wants to put on the South Dakota Capitol’s dome larger than life-sized statues of the four United States presidents who are on Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Her chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, explained the proposal Friday to the state Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission.

The second floor alcoves in the rotunda contain four bronze statues of women, dedicated in 1989 for the centennial of statehood that year, representing four characteristics all South Dakotans share: Wisdom, integrity, courage and vision.

The bronze statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt would go in the four alcoves outside on the dome, Venhuizen said.

The full-body likenesses would be 9 to 10 feet tall — “more fitting to the setting” than the faces-only carved on Mount Rushmore, according to Venhuizen — and would cost about $130,000 apiece, with the money to be raised from donations.

He emphasized it is in the discussion stage. The commission would have to approve the project for it to move ahead.

One of the commission members, state Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson, asked about the timetable.

“That’s a good question,” said Venhuizen, who participated by phone. “The hope would be to get that done in, oh, maybe a year.”

A state law already says a replica of Mount Rushmore may appear on South Dakota license plates issued for motor vehicles.

Venhuizen serves on the board of directors for Pierre’s Trail of Governors that places life-sized statues of South Dakota’s chief executives in the Capitol area and the central business district. The Trail of Governors raises money through donations from the families and friends of former governors and from the general public.

Gilbertson wondered whether the four presidents’ likenesses might be based on Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s early model that showed their bodies.

“Maybe,” Venhuizen replied, “I hadn’t thought of that. That is a neat idea.”

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