$1,000 reward to recover 800-pound hammer stolen in North Bay

A $1,000 reward is now being offered for the recovery of a huge hammer sculpture stolen in Healdsburg. 

The sculptor is as mystified as everyone about who would take the 800-pound object, and how they pulled it off. 

"It's not an easy thing to manage," Doug Unkrey told KTVU on Wednesday, "and if you sold it for metal, it wouldn't even be worth 50 bucks."

The artistic value of the hammer: $15,000.

Since May, the mammoth piece has sat in front of the Healdsburg Community Center on Healdsburg Avenue. 

It's installation on a patch of lawn required a flatbed truck, a crane, and the careful handling of several people. 

But whoever took it, dragged it across the parking lot pavement, leaving scrape marks.

"Where those end, they probably loaded it into a trailer, " said Community Services Director Mark Themig.

Themig believes it would take as many as 10 people and a hoist to move the sculpture, which is 21 feet long and 6 feet tall at the hammer head. 

"I think there was a concerted effort to be quiet and be very fast about this," added Themig.

People who come to the community center for classes and activities walked past the massive piece at the entrance. So do employees, and the sculpture was still there Oct. 5, when they left. 

"One of our staff who showed up at 8 a.m. Saturday morning was the first one, and he drove in and said 'where's the hammer?'" Themig said. 

Everyone was in disbelief, but it wasn't a drill, it was a genuine heist.   

"It was a really unique piece," said Themig, "and we would watch people pull up, get out of their cars with their families, and take pictures with it, it's not something you see everyday."

A plaque on a post alongside the hammer was knocked to the ground.   

It's' been repaired: a small sign recognizing the sculptor Unkrey and the Voight Family Sculpture Foundation, which sponsors art installations across Sonoma County.

The foundation is offering the reward; the sculpture was part of a temporary exhibit, and was to be in place for one year.   

"I'll take it as some sort of compliment that you would actually want to steal a piece," said Unkrey, who spent four solid months crafting the hammer from a single redwood tree and scrap metal.

Not angry at the heist, Unkrey is amused. 

"Most artwork, you want to invoke some sort of a feeling, but I just didn't expect this one," he laughed.. 

Downtown Healdsburg has several fine art galleries, but the city is proud of its public art program, established more than a decade ago.

"People are definitely upset that this happened," said Themig, "and also also puzzled about how they did it, so there's a lot of talk around town."

Police have heard the jokes- especially on the city's Facebook page- about suspects such as Thor, or Peter Paul and Mary, Paul Bunyon, or MC (as in Hammer).

Early on, they expected to find it was a stunt by local teenagers. 

"Maybe a high school prank, something like that," Healdsburg Police Officer Darryl Erkel said. "But we checked the surrounding high schools and we weren't able to find the item, and there's no indication it was really a prank."

 Unkrey is philosophical. . 
"All art is temporary anyway, as far as i'm concerned," he smiled.

He does hope the thieves dump the hammer before they the cops nail them.  

"I would just put it off to the side of the road somewhere, where nobody would see me do it," said Unkrey, "because who would want to go to jail for Grand Theft hammer?"