Lake Anne residents woke up to a shock Saturday morning. One of the neighborhood's newest additions, a bronze statue of Reston founder Robert E. Simon, was missing from its seat on a lakeside bench, where it greeted visitors as they entered the historic plaza.
It appears pranksters removed the statue at approximately 3 a.m. Saturday morning and wheeled it through the plaza on a hand truck, down past the Van Gogh Bridge and along the canal, where they placed him partially in the water, leaning up against a tree.
"He looked real peaceful sitting there," said Dan Warfield, a Reston Association employee who helped remove the 150-pound statue from the lake. "All he needed was a fishing pole. It's kind of funny. Poor Bob."
The way the statue was positioned suggested to some observers that it was not hastily dumped there, though the discarded hand truck was partially submerged nearby. It looked like the theft was a calculated prank, perhaps by drunken teenagers, speculated a few Lake Anne residents, including Simon himself.
"It took a certain amount of strength and ingenuity," he joked. "What fun!"
THE STATUE is owned by the Reston Historic Trust, a non-profit organization that runs the Reston Museum at Lake Anne Plaza and collects documents and artifacts from Reston's history. It was unveiled in April during Reston's first Founder's Day, celebrating Reston's 40th anniversary and Simon's 90th birthday.
Chuck Veatch, who serves on the Reston Historic Trust's board, said the removal of the $60,000 statue is no laughing matter. It is constructed out of 20 individual pieces and, when removed from its resting spot, it becomes relatively fragile.
"It's a one-of-a-kind work of art," Veatch said. "Anybody who has the idea that this is just a prank, we want them to know that this is not a joke. It is an expensive work of art."
Veatch said he hopes the vandalism does not become an annual prank because if the culprits are caught, they could be stuck with the price tag for any damage.
The statue's artist, Zach Oxman, will inspect the statue and will help assess any damage that may have occurred.
"It's an icon of the community," Veatch said. "Everybody loses out if it's damaged."
WORRIED Lake Anne residents discovered the statue at around 8 that morning, as vendors started to set up the Reston Farmers Market and the weekly antique and arts bazaar. The residents called Fairfax County police, who are investigating the incident.
Nearby residents said they heard what sounded like young people goofing off around the Van Gogh Bridge at roughly 3 a.m. Elena Best, who lives in a row house next to the bridge, said she heard "scratchy metal sounds," suggesting the vandals were transporting the statue via hand truck.
"We thought a raccoon got inside the trash can and was making all this ungodly noise," she said.
Saturday's prank was the second high-profile statue theft in Reston this year. In April, Herndon resident Michael Star stole a $38,000 realistic sculpture of a bikini-clad woman from the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival at Reston Town Center. Star, who was also convicted of several other thefts, remains incarcerated at the Fairfax County jail.