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Experts awaiting approval to repair crumbling statue

OREGON – Fundraising continues while a team of experts ready to repair the well-known Black Hawk statue waits for the go-ahead from two state agencies.

Frank Rausa of Sterling, who is spearheading the effort to repair the 103-year-old concrete statue, said the project team has not yet received approval of a plan submitted to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

“We haven’t heard from the state yet,” Rausa said Monday. “They’re reviewing it.”

The IDNR’s approval is required because the statue, which overlooks the Rock River from a high bluff at Lowden State Park, is under that agency’s jurisdiction.

The IDNR received a $350,000 grant for the project from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Because the statue has landmark status, the IHPA also must sign off. Black Hawk has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009.

The project team is made up of Amy Lamb Woods, the project manager and a preservation materials engineer; Andrzej Dajnowski, the conservator; Anne T. Sullivan, historic preservation consultant; and Rausa’s wife, Charron, who is involved in the fundraising efforts.

At a news conference June 24, Rausa said the $724,000 already raised to repair the 50-foot statue likely would not be enough. 

“We have sufficient funds to do 80 percent of the work,” he said.

Woods said at the news conference that testing and evaluations done recently show that three areas of the Black Hawk statue are in dire need of repairs.

She is an engineer with Thornton Tomasetti, Chicago, an architectural firm that provides engineering design, investigation, and analysis services to clients worldwide.

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, Woods said.

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

Woods was a member of the team of experts who measured, cored, and poked the statue last fall and again this spring to find out how bad the toll taken by the ravages of time and weather actually is.

“The damage is way more than we expected,” she said. 

Despite that, she said some parts of the statue remain in good shape.

“The head is actually in very good condition,” Woods said. “The back side of the statue is in relatively good condition.”

The core of the statue is also sound. Steel reinforcement rods inside several inches of concrete under the outer layers show no corrosion, Woods said.

Except for the damaged outer layers, “we have a pretty stable structure,” she said.

Woods said she hopes the scaffolding will be in place by mid-July with the work beginning sometime in August.

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

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