The statue is one of the oldest objects in the Idaho State Capitol. Its creator, a German immigrant named Charles Ostner, began carving the statue shortly after his arrival in Garden Valley in 1864, the year Boise was founded.
Ostner had studied art at the University of Heidelberg and had become well-known as a sculptor in California before coming to Idaho. As legend has it, he carved the George Washington statue out of a single, massive block of Idaho pine.
A toll bridge operator by day, Ostner finished the statue at night by the light of candles and pine torches. He consulted a postage stamp for a likeness of the president. It took him four years to carve the statue. The finished piece was bronzed and installed on the Capitol grounds in 1869. Damaged by weather, it moved inside the Capitol in 1934. It got its coat of gold leaf in 1966.
Ostner continued his artistic career in the fine art realm, but also in the tabloid realm. In 1880, The National Police Gazette, a paper specializing in sensational murders, squalor and crimes of passion, published Ostner's sketch of the crime scene after a glamorous dance hall owner and her husband were murdered in Bonanza.
Ostner fans take note: He carved a gold horse head that hangs on the second floor of the Idaho State Historical Society, not far from the stuffed two-headed calf.
Ostner died in 1913. He is buried with his wife, Julia, in Boise's Morris Hill Cemetery.
Anna Webb: 377-6431