DANIELLE SANZONE, The Record
TROY, N.Y. -- Something is different about downtown. This might be because more than a dozen of the Uncle Sam statues that once decorated the city have been auctioned and sold.
The streetscapes and corners seem to be a bit bare without the uniquely decorated little men with top hats and beards.
But the statues have gone on to greener pastures -- literally, in some cases.
Seventeen of the statues were auctioned in an online bidding process in early December, with private citizens, business owners and residents from out of town bidding on them. Each of the Sams have since gone to their new homes.
One is now near a private pool in North Greenbush, another is currently on a local front porch with the eventual plan of being moved to the garden. Some are keeping their new owners company while at work, like the #EnjoyTroy statue purchased by Tom Nardacci. That statue is now located in the Gramercy Communications office on River Street.
"They’ve been put in quite a wide variety of places," said Elizabeth Young, current Troy Business Improvement District executive director.
Young will leave the position in early February and said the Uncle Sam Project was the best project she worked on during her time with the BID.
"It was a pleasure to work on, despite the incidents of vandalism. There was overwhelming positive energy from people," she said, recalling the days and nights leading up to the unveiling of the Uncle Sams on a Troy Night Out this past April.
She remembered excited people asking about when they would be unveiled. In the months after, the statues proved to be mini-economic drivers, with dozens of people touring the city to see each of the statues and frequenting the nearby businesses. People told her that they went to parts of the city where they had not been in years.
"The Uncle Sams definitely had an economic impact," Young said. "They were universally loved and it was a joy to see people so excited. It brought a lot of energy to the whole city and there was nothing controversial about them. They were not Democrats or Republicans. It was art for art’s sake."
About $16,000 was raised from the online auction, proceeds went toward the costs of the statues. The 30 statues cost $750 each to manufacture in Vermont, $250 stipends were given to the artists who decorated them, and the Troy BID made booklets about the project.
The most paid for an Uncle Sam statue during the bidding was $3,100 for the Anotated Uncle Sam done by artist Geoffrey Raymond. The statue once stood on Broadway near the intersection with 4th Street and it was purchased by local business owner Jim Scully.
Gwen Krause of Troy won the bidding for Abenaki Uncle, which sold for $950. It now sits on her porch.
"My neighbors have come over to say how fun the statue is. It’s beautifully painted and makes quite a statement," Krause said, noting that with the way it is positioned on her porch, it looks like someone is home all the time. The statue, once on Fulton Street, has a Native American design. "Uncle Sam is the symbol of Troy and the United States and here he is dressed as a Native American. It’s a neat combination."
She said the statue project made her smile and she liked that it invited people to come to the city.
For those who were still interested in nabbing a statue, two remain for sale. The Unsustainable Beacon statue, which lit up near the old City Hall site, is being repaired and the Troy BID is still waiting to get the head back for the Rainbow Uncle Sam that was on 4th Street. Once those two are repaired, hopefully by this spring, they will also be put up to auction, said Young.
Meanwhile, some of the statues have remained in downtown since they were sponsored by local businesses, like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which wanted to keep displaying the statues publicly. Other statues will return to the schools that designed them, like Emma Willard and Troy Prep.
The Uncle Sam Project was made possible by a grant and Young said she hoped that the city would do such a project again. The initial plans, she said, was to do something similar every couple of years.
Uncle Sam calendars are also available at the Troy BID for $5.