OREGON, Ill. (The Center Square) — Restoration work is complete on a northern Illinois landmark.
The Eternal Indian statue at Lowden State Park near Oregon has spent most of the past five years under a plastic covering to protect it from the elements. Now a project to repair damaged concrete on the 109-year-old, 50-foot-tall structure has wrapped up.
“Scaffolding is coming down, the tarp is off, and you can see the statue,” said Crystal Curfman, executive director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation. “The last thing to be done would be redoing the Plaza that surrounds the statue.”
The restoration follows years of delays. The site first was identified as being in danger of deterioration more than a decade ago and there had been worries the statue could have been damaged past the point of repairing.
Private money raised early in the project helped pay for temporary repairs and engineering studies to determine what materials to use for a more permanent fix. Curfman said the project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the help of local residents.
“This is a great example of a successful private-public partnership and of the community coming together to keep our heritage and specifically a national historic landmark,” Curfman said. “A lot of people who’ve been involved with the project grew up visiting the statue or taking class trips to this great landmark. It’s kind of a win for everybody.”
After years of promises, the state recently chipped in about $350,000 dollars for the project, pushing forward the repairs.
“It’s so exciting to see Black Hawk unveiled again,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, who represents the area. “The statue is freshly patched and restored and looks better than ever.”
Curfman said state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Conservation Foundation assisted in the effort.
“On the DNR side, helping to navigate contractors and making sure we’re on time and understanding the work that goes into this,” Curfman said. “On the ICF side, making sure that money is coming in and bills are being paid.”
After funds were spent for the repairs, Curfman said it appears there will be money left over for any work needed in the future.
“That will stay with the Black Hawk statue so that if there are any other incidents going forward or smaller repairs that can be taken care of right away,” Curfman said. “It’ll be monitored and if something comes up, we’ll have hopefully enough funds to fix whatever needs to be fixed at that time.”
The Eternal Indian statue, also known as the Black Hawk statue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This restoration process was a long and rocky road,” Demmer said. “But when we came together at the local and state level, we were able to get the job done. I can’t wait to welcome back visitors from across the region to see the famous statue looking out over the Rock River again.”
A formal unveiling ceremony for the restored statue is being planned for the spring.
Reporting by Scot Bertram
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