After second day of work, Leif Erikson statue still not budging
By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter

He still wasn't budging today, the second day in which workers tried to move the fierce-looking Leif Erikson statue that for 45 years has faced Shilshole Bay.

First, Artech, the company contracted to move the 17-foot bronze statue to Kent to fix blemishes causes by weathering, found that concrete had been poured into Leif's hollow legs, and it had set hard against the pedestal.

Then, today, it found the concrete had been poured around rebar which needed to be exposed, and then cut.

The contractor has spent more than 16 hours using concrete tools of various kinds to dislodge the statue. Even a crane using 20,000 pounds of force to pull up the statue was unsuccessful.

Leif's refusal to being refurbished and moved in October to a new home about 200 feet away seemed a bit of pride to Scandinavian-Americans visiting the site.

"People come by and say things like, 'My Norwegian grandfather always built things to last. This statue must have been put in by a committee of those guys,'" said Kristine Leander, president of the Leif Erikson International Foundation (www.leiferikson.org).

She said that hopefully the now twice-postponed ceremony to lift Leif up onto a flatbed truck will take place at noon Thursday.

Erikson was a Viking many believe was the first European to reach America, 500 years before Columbus.

The historic icon is a great source of pride to Scandinavians. The local community here donated $42,000 (nearly $290,000 in today's dollars) to make the project happen, the international foundation is raising funds for the new site.

But the statue had a hard time finding acceptance when first proposed in 1959. For three years after that, its Scandinavian backers had to fight to find acceptance for the statue from city officials.

The Parks Department didn't want it because it believed other ethnic groups then would demand their own statues.

Some members of the Municipal Arts Commission said it wasn't worthy art -- "not distinctive. It isn't alive."

Finally, the Port of Seattle said it'd accept Leif, and since then it has become a much-photographed landmark.

Leander said at one point, the port worried the statue might topple in an earthquake. "It wasn't going anywhere," she said.

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