A statue that once soared over downtown Wichita turns up in southeast Kansas
An icon that used to soar above downtown Wichita has once again found its wings.
From the summer of 1967 until June of 1988, a 15-ft wide fiberglass eagle, wings spread and claws extended, was perched atop a 35-ft tall rotating sign at the Wichita Eagle-Beacon building at 825 E. Douglas. It was an iconic fixture that stared down motorists over Douglas Avenue in downtown Wichita for 21 years.
Soon the eagle will stare down thousands of aspiring Eagle scouts and their parents as they enter the 3,000-acre Quivira Scout Ranch in southeast Kansas.
For the past 15 years, the bird has been sitting in pieces on a shelf in a maintenance shed at the scout ranch, which is 11 miles north of Sedan. Surround by tools, mowers and swarms of wasps, camp workers and volunteers thought it was broken.
Ranger Paul King wasn’t sure what to do with the bird.
“The head was turned inside out and stuffed inside the body. I thought it was a fiberglass thing that was gonna need fixed, and I didn’t know how to patch it,” King said.
The bird has had an interesting journey since a crane lowered it from atop the former Eagle building in the summer of 1988. The Eagle building itself - at 825 E. Douglas - was demolished in 2017 and the newspaper moved to Old Town. Cargill’s Protein Headquarters now occupies the address.
The sign, originally placed in June of 1967, was built by the Claude Neon Federal Company. An Eagle-Beacon employee newsletter from that year described the eagle statue this way: “The Eagle’s eagle, fierce in aspect and ready to fly down and peck tardy employees on the head, is perched aggressively on the top of the sign.”
In June of 1988, in an attempt to modernize the exterior of the building, the sign, and the giant bird, were taken down.
Then Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Getz wrote a column on June 15, 1988, asking people what should happen to the sculpture. More than 100 readers responded. In addition, a committee of the newspaper’s employees was formed to help decide the statue’s fate. According the Eagle employee newsletter, some suggested it be donated to Maize High School or McConnell Air Force Base. Eventually it was donated to the Boy Scouts’ Camp Tawakoni near Augusta, as a display to honor the highest rank in Scouting - The Eagle Scout.
The eagle did eventually end up there, perched atop a rock pedestal, until Camp Tawakoni, was sold by the Boy Scouts to the Disciples of Christ in 2004.
From there, and no one can recall how, the bird was taken apart and transported to the Quivira Scout Ranch. It was put on up high on a storage shelf and forgotten.
About a month ago, King, the camp ranger, needed the shelf space occupied by the eagle. He took it down and he, along with some of camps volunteers, realized the old bird wasn’t broken. It just needed to be put back together and refurbished.
TaeRee Glover and her husband Cary decided to take on the project. TaeRee Glover has painted several signs around the Quivira Scout Ranch, so after a trip to the local hardware store and a week of work, the eagle that Wichitans may remember from 50 years ago, looks new.
King says the camp plans to mount the bird on a pole or pedestal to greet future visitors to the Quivira Scout Ranch.