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Hermann the German rises again
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Hermann the German is lowered back into place after a $1 million renovation. (MPR photo/Mark Steil)
A southern Minnesota landmark returned to its lofty pedestal Tuesday in New Ulm. A crane lifted Hermann the German, all 32 feet of him, into place. The copper statue was taken down about a year and a half ago to repair more than 100 years of wear.

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Image Hermann rising

New Ulm, Minn. — The statue has rested on the ground next to its pedestal since it came down in February 2003. The restoration included a new boot, a repaired shoulder and some much needed soldering. Workers closed several dozen bullet holes in the copper skin. Before the statue was lifted into place, Cleo Bohne took what likely will be her last ever ground-level look at Hermann.

"I'm a newcomer to New Ulm, and I'm so happy to see that he's down and been repaired. He is really a handsome man," says Bohne. "If he can make it another 106 years he'll do a whole lot better than we flesh and blood folk."

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Image Repaired bullet holes

Bohne said the statue is a symbol of New Ulm, which was settled by mainly German immigrants in the 1850s. Bohne wished the statue luck, moments before it was lifted back into place.

"I hope nobody shoots at him. Water got inside because people shot at him," says Bohne. "Can you imagine? I'm hoping people are wiser now."

A couple hundred people were on hand to watch the statue's re-ascent. Workers waited on top of the pedestal. As a crane lifted Hermann skyward, John Fritsche of New Ulm called his son in Louisiana. He gave him a play-by-play of Hermann's return to glory.

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Image John Fritsche

"Starting to swing him. Now they're going to swing him over some more. He's six feet from going down," says Fritsche.

As the statue touched home, the crowd applauded. Among those watching was Dennis Warta, who chaired the restoration effort. He says Hermann is made of sheets of copper, hammered by artisans into the proper shapes. It's the same process used to make the Statue of Liberty in New York.

Inside Hermann, a spider's web of iron support beams holds the statue together. Warta says more than $1 million were spent repairing the statue.

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Image Hermann close-up

"They had to replace some of the pieces of copper. The boot had to be totally redone. Much of the inside iron was OK, but they coated it with a preservative to prevent further rusting. Some of the iron at the very bottom was badly rusted and had to be replaced," says Warta.

He says the statue had deteriorated so much there was a real possibility a severe windstorm could have brought it down.

The statue depicts an ancient German warrior who defeated the Romans in battle. Warta says he hopes the refurbished Hermann will symbolize the role German immigrants played in the development of America.

"I would hope that it would be greater than just the city of New Ulm," says Warta. "I would hope that the entire nation should be proud of a symbol for, still, the largest ethnic group in the country. With the contributions that they have made to the greatness of our nation, I think it's worthwhile to honor that group."

The statue was first lowered onto its pedestal overlooking New Ulm in 1897. City officials hope to have a formal rededication ceremony for the restored statue sometime next year.

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