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Editorial: Black Hawk statue rescue a step closer

With substantial funds raised and key approval from two state agencies, repairs to the century-old Black Hawk statue are that much closer.

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Momentum is building to begin repair work on the 103-year-old Black Hawk statue near Oregon.

That’s good news for area folks who enjoy the statue’s grandeur, as well as tourists who travel to our region to see the 50-foot-tall concrete monolith perched on a 125-foot bluff overlooking the Rock River at Lowden State Park near Oregon.

A few weeks ago came word that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had given its OK to the proposed renovation work. The previous week, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency gave its approval.

Most of the money needed for the project has been raised, according to Frank Rausa of Sterling, a member of Friends of the Black Hawk Statue. About $725,000 is available; it may take an additional $75,000 to $100,000.

Whoever receives contracts to do the work will face a daunting task.

Famed sculptor Lorado Taft and his team used concrete to create the statue, which was dedicated in 1911 and named “The Eternal Indian.”

The trouble is, concrete is not eternal. It comes in two types, according to the old saying: concrete that is cracked, and concrete that is going to crack.

Experts assessed the damage to the statue in October. It was extensive. When they returned in April, after the unusually cold winter, they discovered that additional cracks had formed, with large concrete chunks having broken loose from the statue’s arms and tumbled to the ground.

Black Hawk was basically crumbling away before their eyes.

We encourage state officials not to dawdle when it comes to seeking bids and awarding contracts for repairs. One would hope that restoration work can begin yet this year to stabilize the statue and protect it from further damage over the winter of 2014-15.

Weather and time have not been friends of “The Eternal Indian.”

Neither was Taft’s choice of a construction material.

But the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue have lived up to their name.

We congratulate the group for its efforts.

We also tip our hat to the organizers of the Oregon Trail Days Festival, which for the past 5 years generated funds for statue repairs.

We look forward to the day when a restored Black Hawk statue, unencumbered by cracks, missing chunks, scaffolding and fencing, resumes his silent, majestic watch over the Rock River.

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