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Experts take more samples from statue in state park

Large pieces of Black Hawk’s surface dislodged

Mild temperatures and sunshine Monday brought experts to further size up what it will take to repair and restore Ogle County’s best-loved statue.

Restoration architects arrived at the Black Hawk Statue around noon to take core samples from the bottom portion of the statue at Lowden State Park, near Oregon.

The information the samples will yield will help experts determine what exactly needs to be done to repair the 50-foot concrete statue that has overlooked the Rock River from a high bluff at the park for more than a century.

The statue has developed cracks, and large pieces of its concrete surface have dislodged. 

The folded arms of the 50-foot monolith have been especially affected. Large chunks have fallen out of the elbow of the right arm and from underneath the left arm.

The cold and snow this winter have taken an additional toll on the statue.

Frank Rausa, Sterling, who is heading up an effort to repair the 103-year-old world renowned icon, shook his head as he surveyed the damage and watched as the crew set up to get their samples.

“It’s quite a bit worse than it was. The arm is crumbling,” he said. “And we’re so far behind with the weather.”

The crew, made of up Andrzej Dajnowski, director of Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio, Inc. in Forest Park, Anne T. Sullivan, an architect from Sullivan Preservation in Chicago, and Amy Woods, an architect from Thornton Tomasetti in Chicago, plan to return in warmer weather with a lift to take more core samples from the top.

They had intended to do the final sampling in December, but had to cancel when snow and cold invaded the area early ... and stayed.

Rausa said the samples will be analyzed to determine the composition of the concrete. Restorationists will then match that when making repairs.

A team of experts spent nearly a week in October examining the damage to the statue and performing tests.

Engineers used high-tech scanners which allowed them to see inside the concrete to assess its condition and to determine the amount and location of steel reinforcing.

The locations of the steel were then marked on tape placed on the statue’s hollow interior.

Another crew scanned the statue with rotating lasers to create an exact 3-D model of the statue.

The testing, which also included ground-penetrating radar work and ultrasonic tomography, was finished Oct. 11.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1911 as a tribute to all Native Americans and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the statue is situated on a 125-foot bluff. It draws thousands of visitors each year. 

Rausa and the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue have been working to secure funding for the repairs. He said that, coincidentally, federal grants for restoration projects dried up about the time the statue was approved for the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The cost for the assessment and repairs was originally estimated at $625,000. Much of that money has been raised.

Rausa, a member of The Friends of the Blackhawk Statue Committee, said the price tag for the study and repairs is up to $700,000 now and could go even higher.

More than half the money already raised for the project came from a $350,000 grant the IDNR received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The rest came from donations, as well as funds raised during the annual Oregon Trail Days festival held at Lowden Park since 2010.

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

Repair work is expected to begin as soon as the weather is warm enough in the spring.

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