WALLA WALLA -- Chief Smoke lit up the auction block last weekend.
The more than 6-foot tall Indian statue that served 90 years as a relic of Lutcher's Cigar Store was sold during a public auction Sunday for $55,000, including the seller's premium, said auctioneer Doug Macon.
But the buyer, whose identity was not disclosed this morning, reportedly plans to keep the statue in the community. Macon, of Macon Brothers Auctioneers, and Greg Lutcher, the great-grandson of Lutcher's Cigar Store founder Jacob Lutcher, said the buyer plans to loan the statue to Fort Walla Walla Museum for display.
Macon said it was crated and transported to the museum Monday. Few details about plans for the piece were available this morning, including a location in the museum or the timeline for its placement.
Though the buyer's identity was known to those who attended the auction, Macon said he was asked not to disclose who bought the piece.
Macon said the statue attracted at least three other serious bidders in the auction.
"It's exceptional to have that type of provenance on a piece of an iconic nature in Walla Walla that everyone has a memory about," Macon said this morning. "It really was nice that it could stay here."
The statue of the Native American shading his eyes with his right hand and adorned in a colorful headdress was part of the collection of Ted and Jerry Small, who had bought the statue from the Lutcher family. The two families had been the only owners of the piece.
Though part of the downtown Walla Walla landscape for decades, the piece had more historic value than many had likely realized. As part of the research for the auction, appraisers discovered Chief Smoke had been created by Thomas V. Brooks, an artist considered by many to be the "dean" of 19th-century American carvers.
According to a description from Maurer Antique Appraisals LLC, Brooks worked first in New York and later Chicago, producing both commercial advertising statues and figureheads for sailing ships. The Walla Walla carving is believed to be from the New York workshop. At the time it was made, Brooks had an inventory of more than 400 figures available for sale at any time.
In the late 1800s, the carving would have cost about $300.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.