WATFORD CITY Theodore Roosevelt has always been a larger-than-life character in the history of the Old West. So a 20-foot-tall, 8-ton bust of the former U.S. president fits right into its new home along Highway 85 in Watford City.
Marty Mulder, owner of the Roosevelt Inn & Suites in Watford City, has hundreds of Roosevelt items decorating the 50-unit motel, including an 1897 letter written by Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the Navy. But it's the addition of the bust next to the motel this month that's been turning heads.
"I am very happy with it," Mulder said. "It really is a nice bust, with the detail in it just the lines on his hair and the neck tie."
A 20-foot-tall bust of Theodore Roosevelt sits outside the Roosevelt Inn & Suites in Watford City in this photo taken by Jessie Veeder Scofield Nov. 26. The bust has become an attraction since its installation in November.
The public feedback makes him glad he installed the bust as well.
"It seems to be going over good. Being white, it's pretty eye-catching," Mulder said.
The concrete bust was created by a Texas artist for a Presidents Park that opened in Lead, S.D., in 2003. The artist, David Adickes of Houston, opened a similar Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Va. Adickes is a well-known artist whose works include a 67-foot tall statue of Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas, and the Houston airport's George H.W. Bush statue.
The Lead park, which displayed busts of all the presidents, closed about two years ago and has been selling off the properties.
Mulder learned of the Roosevelt bust from a South Dakota salesman who had dropped by his motel. Mulder traveled to the park to check out the bust at the end of October. Once he saw it, he knew he had to have it.
It happened that a campground owner in Medora also was interested in the bust but didn't have the cash upfront. Mulder, knowing that competition for a bust like that could get intense if others in Medora knew of it, wrote out a check on the spot. The cost, which Mulder isn't disclosing, included the expense of shipping the bust to Watford City in two pieces and then assembling it and retouching it. The park owner arranged for shipping and for a Rapid City artist to install the bust.
"He really did do a lot of work to bring it here," said Mulder, who had some hoops to jump through on his end in getting the appropriate city permits.
Mulder is installing a lighting system for the bust and wants to do some landscaping with shrubs in the spring.
Mulder believes Watford City is the right place for the Roosevelt bust. He hopes the attraction will draw more people not just to his community but to the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located just south of Watford City.
"It's the second least visited national park in the country," he said, voicing his frustration over a treasure being overlooked. "The southern unit gets piles of people. We do have a lot of nice badlands up here, too."
Mulder purchased the motel in Watford City in 1989, operating it originally as a Super 8. The conversion to the Roosevelt Inn & Suites, in honor of the nation's 26th president, occurred in 1993 as an effort to promote tourism and get more people to the north unit of the national park. A 55-room addition under construction at the motel is scheduled to open next spring.