What do Marie Diehl’s statue and the Frederick Woman’s Civic Club have in common? Both came into being in 1911, although with no connection at that time. Today, the statue occupies a prominent place in the Steiner House garden, next to the historic home that FWCC calls its headquarters.
Born in 1855, Marie Diehl grew up in Frederick and spent most of her adult life here. Her father was Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for 37 years from 1851 to 1887. The church served as one of Frederick’s many hospitals following the Battle of Antietam.
Marie graduated from Frederick Female Seminary in 1872, located in Winchester Hall. Following her graduation, she studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and in Germany. She later served on the Frederick Female Seminary faculty. She taught music and was editor of the “Frederick Examiner,” taking over after the death of her father.
Known for her devotion to the care of animals, she started a chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Frederick. Today that organization continues as the Humane Society of Frederick County.
She never married but was well known in the community for her compassionate and caring nature and concern for people and animals. After Marie’s death in 1907, the local SPCA began plans to erect a monument in her honor. It would be a drinking fountain for horses, dogs and cats.
Contention arose over where to locate the cast iron statue. Many people wanted the statue where many horses could be watered but Market Street seemed too busy. Finally People’s Fire Insurance Company offered to place the memorial on its property at the corner of North Court and West Church Streets.
On August 17, 1911, in front of a large crowd, Marie Diehl’s statue had its formal dedication. Two cement basins accommodated horses on the upper level, and dogs and cats on a lower side. In the rear there was a drinking fountain for people!
With the arrival of automobiles replacing horses, the statue became more and more of an obstacle. With the horse trough and drinking fountain removed, the statue fell into disrepair. In 1947, the fountain fell into the street and shattered, the victim of either a car’s bumper or wind blowing over the weakened statue.
City workmen gathered up the pieces and put them in storage at the City Light Plant on the corner of East Street and East Second Street. By 1972, the city no longer needed the East Street plant and sold it. When cleaning it out, workers recognized the pieces of the Marie Diehl statue and they found their way to the Historical Society of Frederick County.
Finally, the paths of the statue and the Steiner House garden started to converge. David Mantell, a local businessman and conservationist by hobby, who restored damaged works of art, metal and stone, offered to repair the statue. His work on the statue was extensive and required repairing the head, neck and shoulders as well as replacing missing fingers.