The infamous Beckley Hole at the corner of Neville and Heber Streets will soon be home to a sculpture designed to represent the comeback of the downtown area.
According to Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold, the 12 ft. high sculpture will depict a cardinal ascending out of a nest. It will be placed at the former Beckley Hole, which is the name given to the site following a major fire in 2012 and subsequent building demolition. The hole would frequently fill with muddy water and soon became a major eyesore and source of frustration for those in the city. It even garnered enough attention to have its own Facebook page “The Beckley Hole” and made Ezra the Camel a city-wide figure.
It took some time for the city to back-fill the hole, but now that they have, they are rebranding the site as the Beckley Plaza. The Cardinal Ascending sculpture will be the focal point.
The idea for this project began about four years ago when the city began working with Morgantown-based sculptor, Jamie Lester, Rappold continued.
At first, the design centered around a stainless steel sphere featuring the word hope. However, Rappold said he declined that idea because he felt it held a negative connotation that could represent desperation.
“We don’t just hope downtown will come back,” Rappold said. That wasn’t the message he wanted to send. Instead, the idea of depicting the state bird ascending out of the nest was the perfect, positive message for Beckley.
“It will be quite an attraction,” Rappold said. “We are really excited about it.”
Once complete, the plaza will be a park where people can relax. It will be totally grassed and include benches and concrete walkways, Rappold added.
Lester, who is a notable sculptor famous for his Jerry West statue outside the WVU Coliseum and for designing the back of the West Virginia state commemorative quarter, said he too is excited to see his sculpture become a focal point for Beckley.
“I am pretty excited about it,” Lester said. “It is the largest piece like this that I have ever done.”
He explained that the work depicts one cardinal as it rises into the sky. Four different versions of the same cardinal will be represented in various forms of flight. The lower cardinal will be sculpted out of bronze and have life-like features. As the cardinal rises, each version, now crafted from stainless steel, becomes more abstract.
The concrete base for the sculpture has just been poured, but that will take about a month to cure, Rappold stated. The sculpture will be ready to go up sometime in mid-July.
The city is planning an event to celebrate the arrival of Cardinal Ascending. More details will be provided at a later date.