HUNTINGTON — Carter Taylor Seaton said Collis P. Huntington feels like an old friend.
She completed a bust of the railroad magnate, which was unveiled Tuesday in a dedication ceremony as part of the sesquicentennial celebration of the city. The piece will be on display in the main hallway of City Hall.
“Now that I’ve spent three months looking at Collis P., I actually feel like we’re friends,” Seaton told the crowd gathered Tuesday.
The bust, which is made of a water-based clay called white stoneware, was revealed in the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium. It was sculpted on an armature and then cut off, reassembled and was left to dry. Once dried, it was put in a kiln heated to 2,088 degrees Fahrenheit before multiple layers of colored waxes were applied to mimic bronze. The piece took three months to complete.
Through studying pictures of Huntington, Seaton was able to recreate his image. She said she chose to depict him in his later years, as that’s reflected in pictures most people see of him.
Seaton said she is primarily an author now, but she had a career as a marketing professional. She began studying pottery as part of a class at the Huntington Museum of Art and then moved onto sculpture around the time she returned to Huntington in the 1990s. Seaton has also created another bust with local ties, the piece of former Virginia Gov. William H. Cabell that resides in the Cabell County Courthouse. That sculpture was made for the county’s bicentennial in 2009.
Huntington, the man, promoted the expansion of the extension of the Central Pacific Railroad across the American West, which led to the establishment of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, according to Britannica.com. Huntington was born in Harwinton, Connecticut, in 1821 and died in Raquette Lake, New York, in 1900. He linked lines of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which he bought in 1869, with the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Without Huntington, the city would not exist, Seaton said. While he was known as a railroad tycoon, Huntington was also an entrepreneur, adventurer and explorer.
“He pushed the envelope of moving the train into the rest of the country,” she said of the historic figure. “If it hadn’t been for him, that train line across the country wouldn’t have happened … and we, of course, wouldn’t have Huntington.”
The bust is a partnership among the city of Huntington, the Mayor’s Council on the Arts and the 150th Anniversary Committee. Mayor Steve Williams said in his remarks that the piece will be on display at City Hall once renovations in the main hallway are finished. Plans for the area near portraits of the city’s mayors include creating “a living art gallery” where different artistic visions will be on display, Williams said. After the ceremony, Williams said what he loves about sculptures is being able to see the 360-degree vantage points.
“It helps you understand the reality of the man who founded the city, and the fact that it’s Carter Taylor Seaton is what makes it so very special,” Williams said.
Margaret Mary Layne, the chairwoman of the Council on the Arts, said during the ceremony that Seaton volunteered for the bust. Among her local arts contributions, Seaton is part of the arts council, the chairwoman said.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, the city’s Literary Laureate Daniel O’Malley read “I Like to See it Lap the Miles,” by Emily Dickinson, which features railroad imagery. O’Malley said he reviewed correspondence by Huntington and contemporary writers of his day before the ceremony. He read from three business letters Huntington wrote.
Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, would have been Collis P. Huntington’s 200th birthday. As part of the city’s 150th anniversary celebration, a time capsule will be closed at 10 a.m. to mark the occasion. The public is invited to the event, which will be at the Mountain Health Arena Plaza.