Philly's Thorfinn Karlsefni Statue Toppled Into Schuylkill River

Einar Jónsson's Thorfinn Karlsefni statue, weighing thousands of pounds, has stood along the banks of the Schuylkill River for nearly a century.

What to Know

  • Einar Jónsson's Thorfinn Karlsefni bronze statue has stood along the banks of the Schuylkill River for nearly a century.
  • On Tuesday morning, Philadelphia police were called to the area just north of Boathouse Row to find the statue submerged in the water.
  • The 7-foot-4-inch Viking bronze statue stood on a large granite base north along Kelly Drive. It was pulled from the river Tuesday evening.

A 7-foot-4-inch Viking statue, its head knocked off, was hauled out of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Tuesday evening after vandals toppled it overnight, police said.

It remains unclear who pulled the bronze off its perch along Fairmount Park’s Kelly Drive and then dragged it into the river. No suspects were identified but a crowbar was found at the scene.

Philadelphia police were called to the banks of the Schuylkill River just north of Boathouse Row around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to find the Thorfinn Karlsefni statue submerged in the murky river. The statue, which features an Icelandic explorer thought to have visited America more than a millennium ago, has stood along the river for nearly 100 years.

The city hired a restoration firm to bring Thorfinn Karlsefni back to life, officials told NBC10. The firm previously restored Center City's famous LOVE statue.

People exercising along Kelly Drive before daybreak Tuesday stopped to take photos of the damaged nearly granite base where the statue once stood. Philadelphia detectives also stopped by to snap photos and look for surveillance video that could help them track down the person or people responsible for the vandalism.

It appeared the statue was pulled off its massive stone base, which measures 12-by-12 feet wide. Bits of stone were scattered across drag marks on the ground and the bronze could be seen bubbling underwater in the river.

A 7-foot-4 tall bronze statue of a Viking was yanked off its stone base overnight and pulled into the Schuylkill River. Here's a look of the statue underwater Tuesday morning.

A police marine unit assessed the sunken situation. A crane was then needed to retrieve the statue, which weighs several thousand pounds, said Doug Martenson, who was tasked with renovating the statue after previous vandalism. The recovery effort could wind up costing thousands of dollars.

As the sculpture came out of the water, it was headless.

Einar Jónsson forged the statue in 1918 and the city installed it in 1920. The statue was commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) and J. Bunford Samuel. It is one of dozens of statues lining the Schuylkill River north of Boathouse Row.

The statue has been the site of past white nationalist demonstrations around Leif Erickson Day, which honors the Norse explorer of the same name every Oct. 9, and counterprotests. The statue was also spray-painted in the past.

"Thorfinn Karlsefni" by artist Einar Jónsson - Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO from Association for Public Art on Vimeo.

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