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New Bear Pair Placed Outside Peabody Opera House

Brett Blume
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9/8/11-Sculptor Chris Cassimatis puts the finishing touches on one of the two limestone bears he carved, just moments before they were lifted into place outside the 14th St. entrance to Peabody Opera House Thursday morning. (KMOX/Brett Blume)

9/8/11-Sculptor Chris Cassimatis puts the finishing touches on one of the two limestone bears he carved, just moments before they were lifted into place outside the 14th St. entrance to Peabody Opera House Thursday morning. (KMOX/Brett Blume)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  The number of decorative stone bears located outside the Peabody Opera House downtown has now doubled.

Two smaller versions of the familiar bears guarding the Market St. entrance to the former Kiel Opera House were placed on their pedestals along 14th Street Thursday morning.

Sculptor Chris Cassimatis nervously oversaw the installation process.

He and fellow sculptor Jeff Metz spent several months and hundreds of man-hours coaxing the images of each bear from a solid, 9,000 lb. block of Indiana limestone.

Cassimatis said it may be stone but it’s not unbreakable.

“It’s a very tenuous process throughout, starting with the first cut,” Cassimatis explained to KMOX News.  “You can cut too deep, and certain things can be repaired but the list of things that can be repaired is fairly small.”

The tools utilized by Cassimatis included a diamond-bladed cutoff saw, angle grinders, pneumatic air hammers and finally sandpaper.

<<Photo Gallery>>

The original pair of bears outside the Market St. exit have lasted for nearly 80 years, taking everything that a blast furnace St. Louis summer and deep-freeze St. Louis winter can throw at it, and Cassimatis expects his creations to last as long — essentially outlasting him.

“The fact that it’s in St. Louis, my home town, makes it all the better,” Cassimatis said.  “No matter what I achieve from here on out, this is my first really big achievement and I feel incredible about it.  It’s something I’ll be proud of forever.”

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