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The Lady afloat in Barber Marina.
The Lady afloat in Barber Marina.

Lady in the Bay

Field review by the editors.

Elberta, Alabama

In January 2012 fiberglass artist Mark Cline received a phone call from an employee of George Barber, a billionaire art patron. "Mr. Barber," said the voice, "is interested in you building a fifty-foot woman."

Lowering the Lady into the water.
Lowering the Lady into the water.

"Does he want her standing in a field?" asked Mark. "No," the employee answered. "He wants her floating."

Mark was stumped by the engineering needed to float a fifty-foot woman -- until some students from Virginia Military Academy showed up at his Enchanted Castle Studios, seeking advice on how to build a concrete canoe. They pointed out that giant styrofoam blocks, the same kind that Mark had used to build Foamhenge, could easily float a fifty-foot fiberglass woman if hidden inside her head and knees.

Mark admitted that he was nervous as the woman was lowered into a pond at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama, on March 27, 2012. "Like Evel Knievel, you only get one shot," he said. But the woman floated perfectly; she appeared to be using the pond as a bathtub. Only her knees and head were visible above the water.

Shredded post-hurricane Lady in the Enchanted Castle yard.
Shredded post-hurricane Lady in the Enchanted Castle yard.

Mark christened her "Country Girl Skinny Dipping," since he'd modeled her face by combining his favorite movie actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones) with his favorite female country music artist (Sara Evans). Everyone else called her Lady in the Lake, and the name stuck.

"She was received with mixed opinions," said Mark. Some of George Barber's associates felt that the artwork was "mini-golf-ish." But George liked the Lady so much that that he kept her around for months, even though she'd originally been conceived as a temporary (and very expensive) April Fool's prank. In November 2012 he paid to have her trucked south and permanently floated in his public marina in Elberta, a mile from the Gulf of Mexico. She was renamed Lady in the Bay -- although technically she was now Lady in the Bayou.

Mark Cline and the Lady's reconstructed face.
Mark Cline and the Lady's reconstructed face.

"At the Motorsports Park you had to go through a special gate to see her," said Mark. "At the marina she could be seen by tourists from anywhere. Maybe that's what Mr. Barber wanted to do."

Mark noted, with his usual pride in detail and excess, that the fifty-foot Lady would actually be 108 feet tall if she stood up -- nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty minus her upraised arm.

For years the artwork was a seasonal attraction, and eventually she was left in the water year-round -- a painful mistake. On September 14, 2020, Hurricane Sally slammed into the Alabama gulf coast and smashed the Lady to pieces.

Any other fiberglass sculpture would have been hauled off to a dump and forgotten -- but the Lady had a billionaire backer and a resourceful artist. Mr. Barber gave the fragments to Mark and instructed him to put the Lady back together -- "like Humpty Dumpty," Mark said -- even though all that survived were some shredded chunks of her scalp. "I still had the mold of her face and one knee," said Mark. "But I'd already turned the other knee into a whale in New Jersey."

Laboriously, piece by piece, the second Lady was assembled. To Mark's shock, George Barber then paid him to build a duplicate second Lady in case a hurricane ravaged the one that he was working on, and floated this backup in his Motorsports Park pond.

The Lady: ready for her resurrection.
The Lady: ready for her resurrection.

The restored Lady in the Bay was returned to the gulf coast marina in late 2022. Floating walkways now allow visitors to get up close, and plans are in place to lift her from the water and put her into storage whenever hurricane season threatens.

"I kicked myself," Mark said, realizing later that his patron probably would have paid for a third (or fourth) Lady as well. "I should have told Mr. Barber, 'I can make you a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead,'" Mark said. "If he didn't have enough lakes, he would have built one."

Lady in the Bay

Barber Marina

Address:
26986 Fish Trap Rd, Elberta, AL
Directions:
Drive US-98 either eight miles east of Foley, Alabama, or 21 miles west of downtown Pensacola, Florida. Turn south onto County Rd 95. Drive five miles. Turn right onto Fish Trap Rd. Drive a half-mile. Turn left at the Barber Marina sign. Drive 2.5 miles to the Barber Marina. Drive halfway around the traffic circle, then park in the lot as close to the water as you can. You'll see the Lady floating out toward the end of the dock; you can walk out to her.
Hours:
Always in the water except when hurricanes threaten. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
251-987-2628
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Knights in the WoodsKnights in the Woods, Elberta, AL - < 1 mi.
Dinosaurs in the WoodsDinosaurs in the Woods, Elberta, AL - 1 mi.
BamahengeBamahenge, Elberta, AL - 1 mi.
In the region:
Derailed Diner, Robertsdale, AL - 22 mi.

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