TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A local man long-memorialized in the area for his heroic actions in a department store fire in 1898 will once again be remembered with a restored monument recently installed in downtown Terre Haute.
The monument honors Claude Herbert, a teenage Spanish-American War veteran who had been working as a Santa Claus at Havens and Geddes department store when a fire broke out in December of 1898. Art Spaces, Inc. announced the installation and plans for a ribbon cutting at the corner of 5th Street and Wabash Avenue.
Herbert reportedly led a group of children from the store and then went back into the flaming building in an attempt to assist a second group. That second group had already escaped through another entry, but that was unknown to Herbert, and tragically, he wouldn’t make it back out of the fire.
An initial monument, located at the corner of 5th and Wabash, was replaced after being destroyed in a horse and buggy accident. The replacement memorial was eventually moved to the plaza near Terre Haute City Hall. The replacement memorial sat there for years until the summer of 2021 when plans were made to restore the monument.
Tom Fansler of Tiii Environments was tasked with the restoration process and partnered with local artist Bill Wolfe who created a bronze figure to be added to the monument.
The bronze figure is titled Ascending Soul.
“It is a great pleasure to have the Claude Herbert Memorial restored and re-installed in a downtown location that provides the meaning and importance that this piece deserves,” Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said. “Claude Herbert sacrificed his life as he helped many people escape the horrific Havens and Geddes fire in 1898. In addition to recognizing the courage of this remarkable young man, and the generosity of those that have helped to preserve his memory, it is my fondest hope that the Claude Herbert Memorial will serve as a tribute to the generosity and courage that inspire and define our community and all of the courageous individuals that do not hesitate to help others facing true adversity and danger. I am grateful to Thompson Thrift for their generous contribution to this effort and to Art Spaces, Inc. for their assistance. Congratulations to Bill Wolfe and thank you, for capturing the spirit of the memorial in the new bronze work, Ascending Soul.”
The newly added figure and restored memorial have now been re-installed at the corner of 5th and Wabash with a ribbon cutting planned for Saturday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.. The Miracle on 7th Street parade will follow that evening.