An Indian chief statue is one of five monuments sat atop the nine-story high Hotel Clovis. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
A 350-pound historic monument is missing from atop Hotel Clovis.
The 73-year-old stone in the shape of an Indian chief with a war bonnet vanished on Tuesday. City Manager Raymond Mondragon said the monument had been tampered with two weeks earlier.
The stone, around 3 feet tall and estimated by Mondragon to weigh around 350 pounds, was one of seven similar monuments on the nine-story vacant hotel.
Mondragon said the week of July 23 he noticed the head had been moved from its perched position to the hotel roof’s base. He was unaware who was responsible and urged officials with the Two Horse Construction company, which had been contracted to board up the facility, to check on access.
On Tuesday, a Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce employee noticed the missing artifact as she viewed the city atop the hotel with movie scouts considering Clovis as a filming sight. Liz Eisenbraun notified Mondragon, who filed a theft report with the Clovis Police Department.
“We just couldn’t believe how in the world someone had removed it,” he said.
Several steps leading to the fourth floor were scarred, Mondragon said, indicating the stone had been dragged down the stairs.
“From there we don’t know what happened to it. Either it was hoisted down or hid somewhere but we could not find it,” he said.
Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey said those responsible could face fourth-degree felony charges resulting in 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Former Clovis city commissioner and lifetime resident Gloria Wicker said she grew up two blocks from the once lavish hotel.
Built in 1931, Wicker said the Hotel Clovis was once “one of the most elegant hotels in this part of the country,” and the seven Indian heads were signature features.
“It absolutely made me sick. I am heartbroken that we have such scum in this town that would destroy something that had been there all these years that people love,” Wicker said. “You never see a picture of the Hotel Clovis without seeing those Indian heads.”
Neither Mondragon nor Carey would estimate how much the stone is worth, but Wicker said she believes it could be as much as $50,000.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, which Carey said could add value to the artifact.
The hotel has been closed since 1984.
Keeping vandals, transients and graffiti artists out of the hotel has been challenging for law enforcement and the city.
“Anytime you have a (nine-story) building that has been vacant for 18 or 19 years, it certainly makes it a focal point for vandalism, crime and drug users,” Mondragon said.
Carey said sealing the building has been left to the city, but officers tend to keep a casual eye on the area for trouble.
When Mondragon found the Indian head on the roof-top floor last month, he said he stressed to the city commission and construction company the importance of sealing the building. Representatives from Two Horse Construction did not return phone calls placed Wednesday to the business.
Carey and Mondragon said there are no suspects in the theft and the situation remains under investigation with Crime Stoppers offering a $1,000 reward.
Wicker suspects it took six or more to steal the stone.
“There were a lot of them,” she said. “There is no doubt it took more than one or two people to get that out of there.”