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Prep work begins on base of Black Hawk Statue

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:51 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:52 a.m. CST

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Although the project has not been officially approved, preparatory work started last week to repair the Black Hawk statue.

A crew from Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio, Forest Park, put up a fence around the 103-year-old concrete landmark at Lowden State Park near Oregon, and removed bushes and limestone blocks surrounding the statue's base.

"We're getting ready to put some scaffolding up and to do some mock-ups," said Frank Rausa, Sterling, a volunteer who is spear-heading the repair effort.

He said the limestone blocks, which were not a part of the statue's original pedestal, will be saved and probably re-used when the repairs are completed.

Once the scaffolding is in place, Rausa said, a team of experts will begin doing "mock-ups" or testing various mixtures of concrete and other materials to see which one will work the best to restore the areas of the statue damaged by time and weather.

"Four to six recipes will be applied to the statue, and that will take about a month to cure," He said. "Then they will determine which blend will be the best match and go from there."

For actual repair work to begin, two state agencies — Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) — must approve a plan submitted several weeks ago by Thornton Tomasetti, Chicago, an architectural firm that provides engineering design, investigation, and analysis services to clients worldwide.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 as a tribute to all Native Americans, the statue draws thousands of visitors each year. 

Testing and evaluations done recently showed that three areas of the statue are in dire need of repairs.

Amy Lamb Woods, the project manager and a preservation materials engineer with Thornton Tomasetti; said the folded arms of the statue, especially the elbows and underneath the arms; the middle of the robe; and the vertical fold in the robe from armpit to toe are the critical areas.

The areas are spalled, meaning chunks of concrete have already fallen out, and delineated, meaning areas of concrete are loose and ready to fall.

The repair work could begin as early as next month.

"We're pleased to be started, and with a minor miracle, it might be done by October," Rausa said.

Once the repairs are completed, a re-dedication ceremony will be held.

Rausa said the ceremony may be timed to coincide with the original dedication of the statue, which took place on July 1, 1911.

In the meantime, he said, fundraising efforts will continue.

So far, approximately $725,000 has been raised toward the repairs. Rausa said that is likely 80 percent of what will be needed.

Nearly half the money already raised for the project came from the $350,000 state grant.

The rest came from donations, including $50,000 from the Oregon Trails Days festival.

A large contributor was the Jeffris Family Foundation, Janesville, Wis., which gave a $150,000 matching grant.

The Chicago Black Hawks hockey team got on board with what Rausa said is a sizable donation, although he declined to specify how much.

To donate, checks can be made out to the Illinois Conservation Foundation and marked for the Black Hawk Statue.

Donations can be mailed to Illinois Conservation Foundation, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield IL 62702.

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