Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Historic Mill Village to unveil public monument



The Mill Villages of Granby, Olympia, and Whaley Street will unveil a monument designed to provide a larger than lifesized impression of the mill worker experience. The monument is located in the park on the corner of Whaley Street and Olympia Avenue. The unveiling ceremony will be held in conjunction with “Olympia Fest” activities. Visit

The Fales & Jenks spinning frames, used in the mills up until the 1930s, are in silhouette cut out of 1/2 inch Corten (rusting) steel. The larger than- life- size mill workers are porcelain enamel panels, details taken from Lewis Hine’s famous Child Labor Photos from 1919. “ The sculpture is 22 feet long, 10 feet high, and weighs over five tons; that’s a monument!” said Joe Wider, one of the designers, in describing the piece. “It’s a trompe l’oeil sculpture, if there can be such a thing.

“My original design for the sculpture began as not much more than a drawing on a cocktail napkin,” Wider said.

“The design came together when I started collaborating with my codesigner Clark Ellefson, a well known artist/designer here in Columbia, and my business partner Joel Hughen, whose 3D design skills really made this piece come to life.”

“The sculpture was designed to be the centerpiece for a history park,” said Bob Guild, a Columbia environmental lawyer and Granby Mill Village president. The neighborhoods met with PMC Property Group, who had restored the Olympia and Granby Mills and requested the green space with its large trees be preserved.

“The mill village neighborhoods have long wanted to tell our story to the new residents of our vibrant community, as well as its many visitors. We hope this park and art work will inspire people to learn more about the rich cultural and economic contributions of the cotton mill communities to our state’s history.” Guild said.

“Our goal was to establish, in a park setting, a dramatic sculptural centerpiece designed to provide a larger than life-sized impression of the mill worker experience,” Guild continued, “and to provide an anchor for four interpretive wayside signs designed to convey the historical, architectural and cultural significance of our proud downtown Columbia community. That’s the park’s next phase; the four signs are in development now and should be installed by late fall 2016.”

“This project has been a real cooperative effort of the historic Mills Village Community; the Granby, Olympia, and Whaley Street neighborhoods, 701 Whaley (the old Mill Community Building), along with the City of Columbia, the Historic Columbia Foundation and PMC Property Group,” Wider said. “We’d especially like to express our thanks to PMC Property Group and its owner, Ron Caplan, the City of Columbia Hospitality Tax Grants, and Olympia Fest for their generous support for this project. And the monument wouldn’t be the same without the creative collaboration of our fabricators, Chris Stuyck of Stuyck Company in Columbia, and Steve Vandyk of KVO Industries in Santa Rosa California.”

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