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Repairs to Black Hawk finally under way

OREGON – Jubilation greeted the crew this week as they took the first step toward the long-awaited repairs to Ogle County’s best-known landmark.

Workers from Brand Safway started erecting the scaffolding around Black Hawk early Monday morning.

“Hallelujah!” was Jan Stilson’s simple response. Stilson is the former head of the Black Hawk Restoration Team, a part of Oregon Together, formed almost 2 years ago to raise money for the repairs and to work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Conservation Foundation to get the feat accomplished.

Oregon Together member Roger Cain was equally enthusiastic.

“Fantastic and long overdue!” he said Tuesday. “Let’s pray for good weather.”

Devin Hill from Brand Safway expects the scaffolding to be in place by Friday, he said.

That will pave the way for Quality Restorations Inc. of Wood Dale to begin the actual repair work on the surface of the 108-year-old concrete monument.

QRI has allotted 6 weeks for the work to be completed, with an extra week on either side for “miscellaneous,” Cain said.

The statue remains encased in the black plastic QRI workers wrapped around it last fall to protect it from winter weather.

“It may be 2 weeks until we actually see the tarps dropped, hopefully sooner,” Cain said. “They will be working right up against fall weather, but they like the cooler temperatures.”

QRI was to begin work in June but the cold, wet weather delayed it somewhat.

Steve Ettinger, head of the ICF, is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the the Black Hawk Restoration Team, now called the Black Hawk Art, Restoration & Development Committee, to bring members up to date on the project.

The Eternal Indian, created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 as a tribute to Native Americans, is situated on a high bluff overlooking the Rock River at Lowden State Park, near Oregon.

Time and weather have significantly damaged the surface of the landmark, which was unveiled in 1911. Because it's in a state park, the statue is under IDNR jurisdiction.

It spent most of the last 5 years under layers of protective plastic to keep the ice, snow, and cold from doing more damage. It was unveiled briefly in summer 2018 before being wrapped again.

Frank and the late Cherron Rausa of Sterling formed The Friends of the Black Hawk Statue Committee more than a decade ago and began raising money for the project, the total cost of which will approach $1 million.

State budget woes, including the lack of a capital bill for several years, side-tracked a promised $350,000 matching state grant, which finally was funded by the Legislature just over a year ago.

In the fall, a fundraising effort headed up by the Black Hawk Restoration Team secured the final $225,000 needed for the project, thanks to several large donations from area businesses and individuals.

Once the restoration is completed, money still will be needed for landscaping and long-term maintenance.

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