The Plantation Inn Man may be witnessing some of his last sunsets at the hotel located in Chicopee, MA. I was recently alerted by one of my blog followers that the statue was going up for auction. Thankfully, I had the chance to see him in July 2012. I got some great shots of him then and got some information about his history. The statue was built by International Fiberglass in Venice, CA as a Pizza Man. The statue was installed in the mid to late 1960s at a pizza shop in Framingham, MA.
In 1970, Mario Cantalini bought the statue from the pizza shop for $2,000 and moved it to his Mutual Ford dealership in Springfield, MA.. The dealership used the slogan of “Buy American” so the statue was transformed into an Uncle Sam character and the statue’s chef’s hat was replaced with a top hat. The statue stood on the lot until 1988 when the dealership closed. The property was leased to a used car dealership and the statue was put in storage. The owner was not interested in keeping the statue since the “Buy American” slogan didn’t fit well with all the foreign cars they were selling. The statue was taken down and put into storage.
Cantalini was involved in many businesses over the years. He ventured into the hotel industry in the early 1990s at the age of 74. One of the hotels that he owned was known as the Chicopee Motor Inn when it was built in 1958. The hotel was designed by the highly acclaimed architect, Morris Lapidus. It went by several names over the years before Cantalini bought it and renamed it the Plantation Inn.
The hotel’s heyday was in the 1960s when it was known as the Schine Inn. It was a very popular place with celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Judy Garland.. In 1999, the hotel’s most famous guest arrived. The Uncle Sam statue was taken out of storage and transformed into a Southern gentleman. The statue’s suit and top hat were painted white. It was installed in front of the hotel facing a busy interstate exit.
After 14 years at this location, the giant statue will be moving again. It was sold at an auction on Friday, November 15th. According to an article in The Republican “Plantation Man” sold at auction on Friday to Charlie Arment Jr. of Charlie Arment Trucking in Springfield. The auction generated allot of interest and over 100 people were present to witness the event. Charlie won the bid at $11,500 outbidding others as far away as KY. He was sketchy when giving future details but plans to keep the giant in the local area. According to the auction’s advertising, the statue was sculpted by Sacha Schnittman. While Schnittman did sculpt the Texaco Big Friend, I have not heard or read anywhere that he created the Waving Giant statues like this one. However, it is possible.
I have yet to find a photograph of this statue in its early days as a Pizza Man in Framingham. International Fiberglass started selling this particular model in the mid-1960s. A few of them still exist in Chicago, IL and Oakwood Village, OH. There are also a few in Texas with non-standard heads and hands. I recently spoke with former International Fiberglass painter, Terry Nelson. He showed me photographs of statues being assembled in Venice, CA. One of the heads (see photo at left) wore a chef’s hat and could have been a Pizza Man. This may have been the same style hat that the Plantation Inn statue wore originally. I have not been able to find anything about “Too-Fy” or “Stoo-fy” which is printed on this hat. If anyone knows the correct name of the business and where this statue was located, I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks to the Plantation Inn for providing information about the statue during my 2012 visit. Also to The Republican newspaper (see article here) for the information and reference to my blog. Debra Jane Seltzer (RoadsideArchitecture.com) for her input and editing help. Additional thanks to Hell’s Acres blog for letting me use their picture of Plantation Inn Man when he stood at Mutual Ford.