Plaza around the base of iconic Taft statue is nearing completion

Workers from O’Brien Civil Works, Mount Morris began laying the large ‘dry wall’ stones around the base of the iconic statue three months ago.

The plaza surrounding the Black Hawk Statue is nearing completion. Landscaping and the reinstallation of memorial benches are still on the 'to do' list.

OREGON – The digs around Lorado Taft’s iconic “Eternal Indian” statue are almost done.

Stone work around the base of what residents call the “Black Hawk Statue” started in June and is now complete. But finishing touches such as landscaping around the 48-foot-tall statue in Lowden State Park remains on the to-do list.

“The landscaping hasn’t started yet,” said Quentin Snook, site superintendent for Lowden State Park. “Hopefully, they’ll be starting that very soon.”

Snook said the three memorial benches that were situated around the statue will be reinstalled.

“They will be installed back in the plaza area,” he said.

Workers from O’Brien Civil Works Inc. in Mount Morris began laying the large “dry wall” stones around the base of the iconic statue three months ago, which marked three years after the project’s initial conception.

Jake Meyers, Matt Ewald and Troy O’Brien of O’Brien Civil Works measured and examine the large stones before carrying the 40-plus-pound beasts to the base of Taft’s creation.

Oregon residents, under the direction of an Illinois Department of Natural Resources landscape architect, brainstormed the idea for the plaza area in 2019 advocating for a new landscaping scheme, which included native plants and a more “user-friendly” atmosphere.

Time and weather prompted numerous repairs and fundraising drives to maintain the 113-year-old concrete statue, with its last restoration being completed in 2020. The statue is owned and maintained by the IDNR.

Snook thanked all the local residents and benefactors who helped raise money and awareness through the years for repairs to the historic statue.

“I just want to thank the graciousness of all the local people who donated to the restoration effort,” Snook said. “As a local resident, I definitely appreciated all the work everyone has done.”

The statue was created by Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 as a tribute to Native Americans. Unveiled in 1911, it’s situated in Lowden State Park north of Oregon on a high bluff overlooking the Rock River. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

Known as one of the largest concrete monolith statues in the world, the statue was created by Taft as a tribute to Native Americans such as Black Hawk, a war captain of the Sauk tribe who was born in 1767, in Saukenuk, Illinois, according to historical documents.

Black Hawk, or Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, is remembered principally for his role in the Black Hawk War and his efforts to reclaim land in the Rock River Valley.

Attempts to reach the IDNR for additional information on the landscaping project were unsuccessful.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.