George Washington Heater
By Bill Schuette
This statue of George Washington is a classic example of the phrase "all is not what it seems to be." At first glimpse it appears to be an iron statue of our first President, George Washington. George is standing in a classical pose, wrapped in a roman-style toga. The patent date, molded into the pedestal, indicates it was made in New York in 1847. The back of the statue has three square bolts. The bolts hold in placed an iron sheet, which, internally divides George in half. His head is hollow.
George is in reality not a statue but a radiator. He would have been fixed to the smoke stack of a wood stove and as the smoke wound its way up one side and down the other on its way to the chimney, it would radiate heat.
Stephen Van Rensselaer Ableman, the founder of Rock Springs, owned the statue. Ableman, a native of New York State, brought the statue/radiator with him when he moved to Wisconsin and used it to heat his home in Rock Springs until his death in 1880. It was then inherited by his daughter, Laura Elizabeth Ableman Watson, who put it on display outside her place of work, at the Cliff House on the north shore of Devil's Lake. Laura and her husband Edward C. Watson later ran a cafe in the original C&W Railroad Depot in Baraboo. With her went the radiator, now statue, as decoration for her new place of work. The statue was later donated and is on display at the Sauk County Historical Museum at 531 4th Ave, Baraboo.