Pipe Man no longer standing tall in the Muskoka River: this is what it took to remove it


Huntsville lost a unique piece of public art today, albeit temporarily. Some loved it, some hated it, some just didn’t like where it was located, but there’s no question that Pipe Man did what good art should do: it got people talking.

At its meeting on Monday, October 23, Huntsville’s Town Council agreed to have the floating sculpture removed from its current location in the Muskoka River and, pending consultation with the donor, artist and community at large, come up with an alternative location.

Today, less than a year after it was installed, a Pipefusion crew was in the water to remove Pipe Man. It wasn’t as easy a task as it might seem.

Divers and a specially constructed barge were required to remove Pipe Man, which weighs 20,000 pounds and extends 20 feet below the surface

Divers and a specially constructed barge were required to remove Pipe Man, which weighs 20,000 pounds and extends 20 feet below the surface

Pipe Man was, for the most part, engineered by “a bunch of dock builders”, said Pipefusion plant manager, Brad Payne. It was precisely counter-weighted to keep it floating freely; four chains secured it to the riverbed 35 feet below the surface and allowed it to rise and fall with the water level.

And it’s big – extending 18 feet above the water and 20 feet below, the sculpture weighs 20,000 pounds. The depth of the river at that location was ideal; it needs at least a 30-foot depth to accommodate the below-surface structure.

Prior to removing the sculpture, Pipefusion staff sent down cameras to assess its condition below water and were amazed at how little wear there was on the chains and how well it was performing after one year, said Payne. It appears to have been functioning perfectly, making today disappointing for those who helped engineer and build it to see the project succeed but, at the same time, not.

Divers went down 35 feet to unhook the chains, requiring a three million candlepower spotlight to see through the dark water. Using a barge specially built by Pipefusion for the task, staff used a 17,000-pound winch to grab hold of a tether on Pipe Man, hidden below the surface, to pull it off balance until it floated on its side so that it could be moved onto a waiting trailer.

“This has been a long process from the outset,” said Jan Nyquist, owner of Pipefusion. “All of us at Pipefusion are deeply saddened with the removal of Pipe Man. The Town of Huntsville has lost something very special today. Pipe Man was a great piece of industrial art with a historical theme not to mention an incredible engineering feat in a unique location never tried before in the country.”

Apparently being bold, different and daring was too much for some members of our community. The councillors and mayor listened. I am proud of my staff and all individuals in our town including the artist who played a part in the evolution of Pipe Man.
Jan Nyquist

Pipefusion removed the sculpture at their cost, just as they installed it.

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  1. Jacquie Howell on

    I believe Mr. Nyquist said it all ” Pipe Man was a great piece of industrial art with a historical theme not to mention an incredible engineering feat in a unique location never tried before in the country.”

    I am sure he will have lots of compliments within the industry for this achievement and as a result I hope it has been a great marketing promotion for the incredible docks, rafts etc. that he creates and sells.

    I do hope that it can be erected in a public place that people can walk around it and perhaps sit and meditate. thought I liked the idea of a splash pad in River Mill park.

    I did not enjoy it in the river as it was always moving and frequently all I observed was black sides, in addition there was only a small plaque along the shore line indicting it was in the river. I would hope that the town council would erect an informative plaque when it is relocated.

  2. Kathy Henderson on

    I am glad the town took the poll seriously. It’s good to finally have the majority win. I did not care for the placement of the pipeman in the river but it might be nice in the park with a bigger sign explaining what and why this art is here. Thanks to Jan for absorbing the cost of removal.

  3. Visited Huntsville in the summer. Went to on the Docks Pub. Saw this structure in the water but wasn’t sure what the heck it was until I was informed by some family members. Not sure that was the ideal location for it. Certainly it could be located somewhere on land in downtown Huntsville with a brief explanation as to what the meaning of it is. It certainly was a conversation piece so I guess it did what it was suppose to do.

  4. All the statements Mr Nyquist said may be true however at the end of the day only a very small group of people were involved in the decision to locate it in the river and a great piece of “INDUSTRIAL” art, its “engineering feat” “in a unique location never tried before in this country” just confirms that it had at least some advertisement agenda behind it for Pipe Fusion? I honestly do not think a structure like this would have been permitted in the middle of a river or even in a bay in any other town or city. I am still dumb founded that Council gave permission for the location of the structure and at the general cavalier attitude that went on for months as council dragged its feet rather than admit they made a poor decision making statements that the community “would get use to it” … vaguely insinuated most of us know nothing about art…initiated a biased strategically worded survey which gave almost no option except keep it in the water, timed the survey for the end of the summer season and then undermined the opinions of several thousand people who responded to the survey by announcing that it was only a small representation of the population of Huntsville. Had the survey been conducted and analyzed by an impartial company it would have been very clear that the number of respondents was a very accurate representation of the opinion of the majority. Then came the decision to ignore the survey which was incredibly disrespectful to the ratepayers. Thank you to those counselors who remembered their mandate and advocated for the Huntsville Community. I’m not sure who forwarded the motion to return the Pipeman to the donor but I highly doubt that this was what most of the community intended. The reality is that even if a massive statue depicting my Child had been placed in the river I would have cringed at the inappropriate location. Moving forward I hope the next location is chosen wisely and with thoughtfulness and community input. I would love to see this structure up close and personal so I can appreciate the art and “engineering” of it. My guess is that if a splash pad for the kids is incorporated around it plus perhaps a couple of benches, the pipeman will be viewed very differently and would likely receive the positive exposure, appreciation as well as advertisement for the company that was hoped for when it was placed in the Muskoka River in the first place. Just saying… 😊

  5. But was it beautiful? While beauty can be said to be in the eye of the beholder there is a natural beauty that draws the public to visit Muskoka. I applaud the plant for its community spirit. Can there be a new use for it in a highly visible area? Perhaps to discourage boaters heading upriver near the Brunnel lock, from turning into the rocks. That section was not properly marked all last summer. No it’s not 35′ deep but needs a marker. And it will be highly visible to traffic on the highway.

    • I agree but feel the most appropriate place would be on the property of the maker if the neighbors do not object . Beauty is in the eye of the beholder , industrial art and engineering feat it certainly is no doubt about that and great advertising for the company . The Eiffel Tower is in the same category though since it has been painted post 1956 it is more attractive and is a great tourist trap Black is not a colour Tom Thompson would use in his pallet ever

  6. Bonnie Branton on

    “Apparently being bold, different and daring was too much for some members of our community.”
    – Jan Nyquist

    Really! Would have been nice to have ended on a high note.
    – An Arts Grad

  7. Craig Nakamoto on

    “Apparently being bold, different and daring was too much for some members of our community.”
    – Jan Nyquist

    I have to completely agree with Mr Nyquist. I didn’t like the Pipe Man at first, but he grew on me quickly. I never thought that it should be removed. I am disappointed by our community in not accepting something that was bold, different and daring.

    It is certainly not on the same scale, but here is a message sent to the town of Paris in regards to the Eiffel Tower:

    “We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”

  8. Art? Maybe in the eyes of certain people.
    Amazing engineering feat? Certainly, and well done.
    Location? It sucked, and the voters of Huntsville did not have any say in the original placement. The one sided poll was another slap in the voters’ faces.

  9. Craig Nakamoto on

    That is one of the most fascinating and disturbing aspects of art. Anything can pretty much be called art. What makes good art? Is it simply art that “most” people like? And don’t tastes and opinions change like the wind? It is most troubling. In any event, something that generates so much emotion and discussion is great art in my books.

    Also, I find it amusing that so many people argued that the river in front of the town docks is such a “natural Muskoka landscape” that it shouldn’t be marred by the Pipe Man. Hello people, he was resting right in front of Boston Pizza, across from a huge ugly steel bridge (which I do love – but which is in no way natural). And couldn’t we agree that the clear cut (I mean landscaping) and “renovation” of the Hart House is more of an abomination than the Pipe Man?

    The problem with leaving these decisions to the people is that there is usually no consensus and someone has to make a call. If you require a majority vote (of all voters) on every town decision regarding public art – I am guessing that almost nothing worthwhile will get done. Hate to be pessimistic, but the town has spoken.

  10. Karen Wehrstein on

    I think the takeaway lesson here is: yes, art is powerful. Therefore, when it will be public, its installation requires genuine public consent.

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