Over 100-year-old stolen weathervane returned by ALR and VTran

The Art Loss Register (ALR) is thrilled to report that a Copper Locomotive Weathervane produced by W.A. Snow Iron Works Inc. will be returned by a generous donor to Vermont.

The Weathervane, over 100 years old and depicting a steam locomotive and its coal tender, had previously sat atop White River Junction Station in Windsor County, Hartford until its theft on 3rd November 1983. Weathervanes had become easy targets for fearless thieves up and down the east coast at that time as they are always outside and simply sit on a spindle to enable them to move with the wind. Unfortunately, this makes them extremely vulnerable to thieves who simply needed a ladder to make off with these important monuments.

The theft was reported in a 1984 volume of The International Foundation for Art Research’s (IFAR) Stolen Art Alert, a valuable record of such losses. The ALR later incorporated the IFAR records of stolen art and antiques into the ALR’s own database.

Nearly forty years later, the weathervane was consigned to Sotheby’s auction house in New York. As part of the routine due diligence conducted by Sotheby’s, the lot was checked against the ALR database, confirmed as a match for the stolen item, and subsequently withdrawn from sale in order to facilitate its return to the State of Vermont.

The best record of the weathervane before its loss was a black and white photograph taken when it was above the Amtrak station in White River Junction. The ALR’s expert team were able to confirm that the one offered for sale was indeed the stolen weathervane through comparing the patinated exterior caused by weathering on the side of the coal tender and the engine of the train.

The State of Vermont now owns White River Junction Station and the ALR has partnered with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) to return the weathervane.

VTrans is working with the Vermont State Curator to select the best possible location for the weathervane to go back on display so that it may be enjoyed once more. The weathervane is a piece of Vermont’s history, and it is fantastic to see it returned to Vermont where it belongs.

The ALR is glad to have assisted the State of Vermont in this case on a pro-bono basis and the ALR and State of Vermont thank the donor of the weathervane for their generous gesture, as well as Sotheby’s for carrying out their due diligence in a way that permitted the identification and subsequent return of this artwork to the State of Vermont.


Image Copyright: Sotheby’s