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Ottumwa Stories: Ottumwa Oddities

Published October 4, 2022

Ottumwa is home to several statues, sculptures and monuments that, without context, maybe be confusing to look at. If Ottumwa is your home, you probably know the story and don't give them a second thought as you drive past. If it's your first time here, however, you might be a bit confused. Let us clear things up!

1. The Dog: Located in Ottumwa Cemetery, visible from Court Street, is the life-sized statue of a greyhound. The statue was placed on the lot by Thomas J. Nash around the turn of the 20th century, and no one knows the true reason for its placement. Some say it was a memorial for a loyal dog, others say it serves as a tribute for a lost grandson. Regardless of the backstory, the dog has been standing watch for more than 100 years.

2. Soldiers Monument: Coming down Court Hill, your eye will catch the striking view of a 25-foot-tall pillar with an eagle on top. This monument, erected in 1919, was built to recognize the Ottumwa and Wapello county natives who fought in the Civil War. The monument features a bronze eagle on top, four bas relief panels and a bronze plaque on the south side with the names of about 2,400 soldiers and sailors.

3.If you arrive in Ottumwa via the train station, or if you're just driving by, you may notice this granite fountain with lion head spigots located in Ballingal Park. The height and size of the fountain may seem odd, but that's because it is actually a horse watering trough. The trough was built in 1906 and the plaque on it reads:

Presented By
The National
Humane Alliance
Hermon Lee Ensign

4. The Ferber Sculpture: Coming across the Market Street Bridge, your eyes will be drawn to the large, twisted, black shape sitting outside of Bridge View Center. What you are looking at is a sculpture created by artist Herbert Ferber. The sculpture, referred to as the Ferber Sculpture, was commissioned in 1977-78 for the City of Ottumwa. Originally located downtown, the sculpture spent several decades at the intersection of Woodland Ave and Highway 63 before being moved to its current location.

5. Chief Wapello Statue: When standing in Central Park, you may be surprised to look up and see an 11 foot tall statue of a man on top of the court house. That man is non other than Fox Tribe Chief Wapello, who Wapello County is named after. The statue has stood atop the court house since its completion in 1894. It was damaged and fell during a storm in 2012 but was returned to its place the following year.

6. Twin Galaxies Plaque: While walking down Main Street, you will notice a parge plaque hung by the door to the Optical Shoppe. This plaque hangs on the spot where the Twin Galaxies video arcade was located.  Back in the early 1980s, Twin Galaxies began keeping official high scores and records for video gaming and hosted the Video Olympics in the Fall of1982, where top players gathered. The event was featured in LIFE magazine and lead Ottumwa mayor Jerry Parker to proclaim Ottumwa as the "Video Game Capital of the World."

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