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WATERLOO | They’ve overlooked downtown Waterloo and followed its fortunes for more than a century. Well, at least most of them. And not always in the same location….

The statues on top of the old YMCA — now, River Plaza — building on West Park Avenue overlooking the Cedar River are known locally as the “Green Goddesses.”

Artist Robert De Glass created six copper allegorical figures that were placed atop the old Black Hawk County Courthouse at East Park Avenue and Sycamore Street in 1907. About eight feet in height, they represented Industry, Agriculture, Justice, Knowledge, Science and Peace.

According to a timeline compiled by Donna Nelson of Nelson Properties, which owns the River Plaza building, the five statues were almost contributed as scrap metal for the World War II war effort in the 1940s. Some local residents objected, referring to the “goddesses” as the only art in Black Hawk County.

In 1957, one of the goddesses toppled from its perch when a rusted stabilizing pipe gave out. It was, perhaps a harbinger of things to come for the courthouse.

In 1963, that courthouse was razed but the statues were spared. The goddess Peace was leased to Upper Iowa University in Fayette. The goddess Industry was lost or destroyed. The remaining four were moved to the Waterloo Recreation Center, now the Waterloo Center for the Arts, until the early 1980s, when Nelson asked then-Waterloo Mayor Leo Rooff to include them in a renovation of the River Plaza Building.

With the help of Warren Transport, Ralph Emerson of Cardinal Construction and Don Singer, who served on the Waterloo Recreation Commission, the goddesses Agriculture, Justice, Knowledge and Science were placed atop the River Plaza building in 1986. Their sister Peace can be seen on the Upper Iowa campus atop Alexander-Dickman Hall.