It’s been decades since the eagle once perched in front of the Monteagle hotel made its flight to Tennessee Tech. Since three Tech students cut the metal eagle free and brought her to Cookeville in 1952, she has been missed.
“It is something all of the old-timers talk about,” Iva Russell, community coordinator for the Town of Monteagle, said. “They have always wanted to get the eagle back.”
At the Monteagle Mountain Homecoming celebration on Saturday, September 24, a hatchling of sorts, a replica of the original eagle, will be presented to the town in exchange for an official pardon of the 1952 heist.
“The whole story is funny and amazing and we’ve always talked about wanting to steal it back,” Russell said. “Hopefully with this idea of the pardon, the story will be one of healing as well.”
The eagle had been standing in front of the hotel even before the town of Monteagle was established, landing on its perch sometime around 1900. The original owner, John Harton, operated the Monteagle Hotel and is the namesake for Harton Park, now located where the hotel once stood.
“One of the gals in the garden club that does the Eagle Garden surrounding the original perch said to me, ‘We really need to get that eagle back,’” Russell said. “You know how gals can be. Some of them you just can’t say no to.”
So, Russell and the Monteagle Women for a Better Tomorrow contacted Tech President Phil Oldham about getting the eagle back, and he agreed to meet with them.
“He of course said, ‘You’re not getting it back, but let’s talk,’” Russell recalls.
On Tennessee Tech’s campus, the eagle had become iconic, its six-foot wing span spread above Derryberry Hall for years. Oldham took the advice of knowledgeable staff at the Appalachian Center for Craft and moved the aging original eagle inside for display.
Meanwhile, Tech’s Hybrid Immersive Visualization Environment Lab used a 3-D scanner to capture the eagle so that a mold could be made for producing replicas of the eagle. A full-scale replica for the top of Derryberry Hall and a replica to return to the perch in Monteagle were created from that mold. Otherwise, use of the mold is reserved for the university’s highest honor, the Order of the Eagle Award.
Oldham will travel to Monteagle to present the new eagle and accept the pardon from the town’s mayor in a presentation scheduled for 10 a.m., at Harton Park. Alumni, descendants of Harton and area dignitaries will be in attendance as well.
Monteagle Elementary School is hosting a competition allowing students to name the eagle and the town will be alive with activity celebrating its unique history.