Sophie Bolich

Say Hello to Rusty the Mastodon

Newly christened 22,000-pound sculpture in the Third Ward made from a former shoe company boiler.

By - Jul 26th, 2023 03:49 pm
Rusty The Mastodon. Photo by John Grant.

Rusty The Mastodon. Photo by John Grant.

The Historic Third Ward has a new sculpture, though residents of the area may find that they’re familiar with some of its components.

The installment, located across the street from the Pritzlaff building, 150 W. St. Paul Ave., was unveiled last Friday, kicking off a weekend-long naming contest for the sculpture, a life-sized mastodon.

Kendall Breunig, a real estate developer, led the project. Kent Knapp of Milwaukee Blacksmith assembled the sculpture.

The newly-christened Rusty The Mastodon incorporates a vintage steel boiler, originally housed in the former Nunn-Bush Shoe Company Factory — now known as Welford Sanders Lofts — near 5th Street and Keefe Avenue.

Before it was repurposed into art, the boiler sat for more than six years in a lot at 115 S. 2nd St., in Walker’s Point.

Ahead of its unveiling, the sculpture was enhanced with a set of 1929 Ford Model A headlights for eyes and a pair of 10-foot-long hammer-tapered tusks.

The finished sculpture weighs over 22,000 pounds, and stand proudly atop a pile of rocks, its gaze fixed west, toward Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

The Historic Third Ward announced the naming contest Friday morning, ahead of a same-day event at which Breunig shared remarks on the new addition to the neighborhood. The nearby Explorium Brewpub also released a limited-edition beer to celebrate the occasion, which coincided with Gallery Night MKE.

Submissions were accepted via Instagram — with one stipulation. “No Manny, please, Ice Age fans,” the organization wrote in an online post. To be clear, Manny was a mammoth, not a mastodon.

Among the more notable — though not winning — submissions were suggestions for Bronz Mastodonz,  Lightfoot (a nod to Henry Lightfoot Nunn, a co-founder of Nunn-Bush), Milstadon, Harley A. Heater, Rust O’Don and Breu, in honor of Breunig.

Knapp, the blacksmith who assembled Rusty, did so in his southside studio, 140 W. Oklahoma Ave. He, along with his wife, Shannon, and six children, Zoey, Miles, Birdie, Ozzie, Dharma and Tashi, operate the shop, offering custom ironwork and classes in blacksmithing at the School of Iron.

Behind-the-scenes photos of the sculpture-making process are available to view on the Milwaukee Blacksmith Instagram page.

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