BHN Tower of 4 Winds

Mayda Jensen of Jensen Conservation Services examines loose tiles on the Tower of the Four Winds with assistance from Blair Cemetery and Parks Superintendent Pat Long.

A Blair landmark is crumbling.

The Tower of the Four Winds is an iconic piece of artwork that is synonymous with the picturesque Black Elk-Neihardt Park. It was built more than 30 years ago with private funds to honor the Oglala Lakota holy man's message of brotherhood, peace and compassion.

F.W. “Bill” Thomsen, a Denmark immigrant, artist, teacher and minister, was greatly influenced by Black Elk, which culminated in his art depicting the Tower of the Four Winds at the top of a hill above Dana College.

Glass mosaic tiles — known as “tesserae” — have been falling off for many years. In the last few years, the tiles have been coming loose more frequently.

Five years ago, the Friends of the Black Elk-Neihardt Park hired conservator, Mayda Jensen of Jensen Conservation Services Inc. in Omaha, to assess the structure. At the time, she observed a number of issues stemming from aging, weathering and vandalism.

Following the June 2014 hailstorm, Conservation Services replaced the damaged tiles on the four pedestals along the park's concrete paths. The cost was covered by the city's insurance. However, due to the direction of the storm, the tower mosaic was not damaged by the hail.

Still, the tiles are falling.

Last week, Jensen returned to update and improve her previous proposal to preserve and restore the artwork.

But there are limited funds. The Friends group has since disbanded. All the while, tiles keep falling.

This icon can't be lost. It adds to the beauty in Black Elk-Neihardt Park. It represents a powerful story.

The artwork was privately funded when it was built all those years ago. If a fundraising effort is launched, Blair residents need to support it.

It's now time for the community to step up again to preserve this symbol of Blair before it is completely in ruins.

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