There will be a new face in the Old Hall in Richmond soon.
Salem’s hero, Gen. Andrew Lewis, will take his place in the historic section of the House of Delegates area of the Virginia Capitol – 78 years after it was authorized.
A new bronze bust of Lewis, often called the Father of Salem because he received the first land grant, is being sculpted by Salem native Anne Bell, a nationally acclaimed artist who lives in Florida.
Andrew Lewis was supposed to have joined other Virginia greats in the Old Hall years ago. On March 22, 1932, an act was passed that authorized busts or other memorials of great Virginians including Patrick Henry, George Mason, Stonewall Jackson, Richard Henry Lee, Cyrus H. McCormick, Meriwether Lewis and Andrew Lewis.
No bust of Andrew Lewis, a friend of George Washington and compatriot of Patrick Henry, was commissioned, until now. The bust was commissioned by fans of Lewis. Money to pay for it is being raised through the Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association.
Lewis’ likeness is almost completed and is scheduled to be installed in a ceremony in March 2010 in the House of Delegates’ Old Hall in the Virginia Capitol.
“We are ahead of schedule and it is pretty complete at this point,” said sculptor Bell, in a telephone interview Tuesday from her studio in the Orlando area.
“It’s a life-size head and shoulders, 37 inches tall,” Bell said. Although she has sculpted the Revolutionary War hero in heroic proportions – larger than life – in the statue that defends the front of the Salem Civic Center, in a bust that watches over patrons in the Salem Public Library, and in a massive painting that is also in the civic center, she pointed out “Nobody really knows what Gen. Lewis looked like because there were no cameras at that time.”
Gen. Lewis lived from 1720-1781.
“I worked from a verbal description written by his captain, two statues, portraits artists painted in the early 1800s and later, and also looked a crudely done silhouette that doesn’t match up with the description from his captain,” she added.
Bell is scheduled to talk about her statues of Gen. Lewis in Salem on Oct. 12, at a program for 325 eighth-grade students at the school named for him, Andrew Lewis Middle School, formerly Salem’s high school.
The Oct. 12 program is part of a series of programs about Gen. Lewis. That day is being coordinated by the Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association, in partnership with the Fort Lewis Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the Revolution, the Roanoke Symphony and AmRhein’s.
There are big plans for this year-long celebration of Andrew Lewis, including a Blue Ridge Public Television special on Lewis that will feature Salem Delegate H. Morgan Griffith and Andrew Lewis descendant Lewis Pitzer, an AmRhein Winery wine label with the general’s likeness on it, and, of course, the planned March 22 installation of the bust in Richmond.
At the Oct. 12 program, Griffith will tell students about the 1932 legislation. Roanoke Delegate Onzlee Ware is scheduled to talk about Lewis, William Fleming and other Revolutionary War heroes.
Patsy Bean, regent of the Fort Lewis DAR chapter, is scheduled to talk about other monuments to Andrew Lewis, including the original gravesite, his monument in East Hill Cemetery, and how a stretch of Interstate 81 is designated Andrew Lewis Memorial Highway.
The latter was accomplished almost single-handedly by Dr. Dick Fisher, who, with his late wife, Anne, commissioned the statue in front of the Salem Civic Center.
Fisher graduated from Andrew Lewis High School in 1941, grew up on the original Andrew Lewis land grant in Salem, and became interested in perpetuating the deeds of his favorite Revolutionary War hero after reading a biography of Gen. Lewis his wife gave him.
Also at the Oct. 12 event, ALMS teachers will be presented with copies of the map of Salem with Andrew Lewis’ original land grant outlined.