John Walz

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John Walz (31 August 1844 – 1922) was a German-American sculptor most famous for his works created in Savannah, Georgia.

Early life[edit]

John Walz was born 31 August 1844 in Württemberg, Germany to John and Elizabeth Walz.[1] When Walz was thirteen or fourteen, he immigrated to the United States. His parents had died, and he went to Philadelphia to live with his married sister.[2] There, he worked for eight years as a stonecutter, saving money to return to Europe for his education. Walz studied sculpting in Paris under the direction of Aimé Millet and in Vienna under the direction of Viktor Oskar Tilgner. In 1885, Walz returned to the United States.[1]

Life in Savannah[edit]

Statues commissioned for the Telfair Academy

Carl Ludwig Brandt, the director of the Savannah, Georgia Telfair Academy, commissioned Walz's employer to create the statues that stand in front of the Academy. In 1886, Walz accompanied the statues to Savannah. He fell in love with the city, deciding to stay and open his own studio.[2]

Walz became a popular choice for creating gravesite monuments, creating over 70 monuments within Bonaventure Cemetery.[2] Walz's works can also be found in Laurel Grove Cemetery and the city's Catholic Cemetery.[3]

Gracie Watson[edit]

Monument of Gracie Watson, created by Walz

One of his most famous works is the monument he created for Gracie Watson. Gracie Watson was the only daughter of W. J. Watson and his wife, Frances. Gracie became ill with pneumonia and died in 1889 at age six. The year after her death, W. J. Watson took a photograph of Gracie to Walz, requesting a memorial to her. Walz sculpted a lifelike monument of a pensive Gracie lost in thought. Gracie's grave has been called "one of the most visited sites in Bonaventure Cemetery."[4] Gracie's monument is also one of the only funerary monuments in Georgia sculpted in someone's exact likeness.[5]


Walz died in 1922, and was interred at Bonaventure Cemetery.[6] Surprisingly for his profession of creating gravesite memorials, Walz's grave was not initially marked by a memorial. A simple wooden sign indicated his grave[2] until the Bonaventure Historical Society commissioned a monument for it.[3]


In 2012, the Bonaventure Historical Society held a rededication ceremony for the John Walz Memorial Garden. The 4,000 sq ft (370 m2) Memorial Garden contains a variety of over 80 plants.[7] Bonaventure Cemetery also has a street named Walz Way in honor of him.[3] Walz has been called a sculptor of "transcendent local importance."[5]

Personal life[edit]

Walz married Sarah Gilmore in 1907 at the age of 63.[2]


  1. ^ a b The Art League Publishing Association (1905). The Artists Year Book. p. 212.
  2. ^ a b c d e Amie Marie Wilson; Mandi Dale Johnson (1998). Historic Bonaventure Cemetery: Photographs from the Collection of the Georgia Historical Society. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 100–101. ISBN 9780738542010.
  3. ^ a b c "Monument Makers of Bonaventure Cemetery". Telfair Museums. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  4. ^ Douglas Keister (2004). Stories in Stone. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423611004.
  5. ^ a b United States Department of the Interior (2000). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form". Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia". Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Bonaventure Cemetery honors sculptor, John Walz". WTOC. Raycom Media. 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2018.