SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Fundraising for the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota has hit the $5 million goal set by a philanthropist who agreed to match donations to speed progress on the mammoth mountain carving, officials said.
Work on the project has been going on since 1948. While Crazy Horse’s face had been peering across the southern Black Hills since 1998, retired South Dakota banker Denny Sanford said he wanted to see work on the famed Oglala Lakota leader’s horse completed in his lifetime.
Sanford pledged the $5 million match in 2007.
The memorial hit the mark Oct. 21 — the anniversary of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski’s 1982 death — with a $170,000 donation from an investment consultant, a spokesman said.
Dobbs said the memorial has had its share of large donations but there also have been numerous smaller gifts ranging from kids’ lemonade sales to in-kind donations from equipment companies. One was a large bottle of dimes, $200 worth, from a former Black Hills resident.
Inspired by Gutzon Borglum’s nearby Mount Rushmore carving, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear proposed a memorial to Native American heroes with a granite carving near Custer. Ziolkowski was the longtime leader of the project and his survivors kicked their fundraising efforts into high gear after Sanford’s offer, while following Ziolkowski’s admonition to rely only on private enterprise.
Crazy Horse played a key role in the 1876 defeat of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. He died a year later after being stabbed in Nebraska.
When completed, the carving of his image on a bluff about 10 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. The horse’s head will be the memorial’s largest artistic detail at 219 feet high.
Ruth Ziolkowski took over the project after her husband’s death and several of the couple’s children and grandchildren work at the memorial. A welcome center, museum and small university have opened on the property, which drew 1.2 million visitors to the southern Black Hills in 2010. It brings in millions of dollars every year, mainly through admission fees.
Sanford’s donation allowed the memorial to hire a team of rock mechanics engineers and a laser scanning expert to look at stability and composition of the rock. The work should help reveal possible conflicts between planned carving designs and the mountain’s rock seams, allowing for planning and making necessary adjustments.
Dobbs said any slight design changes will maintain the artistic intent, but the main goal is to allow the mountain to stay put.
Crews are beginning to block out the tenth of 11 stair-stepped tiers that will soon reach under the horse’s nose, 360 feet from the top. Work also is progressing to finishing work on the pointing finger of Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm, which sits atop the horse’s mane.
“We’re in the last stages of the blocking out,” Dobbs said. “We’re that close.”
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