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Black Hawk statue earns historic status

Oregon’s most famous landmark has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Black Hawk statute, designed by Lorado Taft and located in Lowden State Park, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 5 by the National Park Service.

“The Black Hawk statue is significant for its contribution to the history of American sculpture, and as a master work of the famous American sculptor, Lorado Taft,” said Jan Grimes, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the National Register program in Illinois. “We welcome its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s most prestigious listing of properties with historical significance.”

Marcia Heuer, executive director of the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce, was elated with the news.

“It’s absolutely wonderful because it gives national significance to something locals have long recognized as important because it was sculpted by Lorado Taft,” she said. “It reinforces the historical prominence of Oregon in the fields of art and culture.”

The Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that the statue brings close to 400,000 visitors to the Oregon area each year.

Oregon Mayor Tom Stone said the designation couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We’re very pleased, especially because the statue is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year,” he said. “It makes all of our preparations for the celebration all the more appropriate. We hope the celebration will draw lots of visitors.”

The 50-foot statue of the Sauk medicine man Black Hawk was the largest monolithic poured concrete statue in the United States when it was built beginning in 1910.

It was unveiled and dedicated in 1911.

Perched above the Rock River on a bluff overlooking Oregon, Black Hawk stands on ground that was once home to the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony, which Taft founded.

The sculpture announced a new use for cement – public works of art, making it one of the world’s most important pieces of sculpture at the time.

The statue is owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

IDNR officials nominated the statue for placement on the National Register earlier this year.

Placement on the National Register should help pave the way for federal funds needed to fix naturally occurring cracks in the concrete structure.

The last major repair work performed on the statue was done 20 years ago when a crew from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., repaired the surface with epoxy. It has since been periodically treated with water repellants in an effort to further protect its surface.

Taft is internationally known for his public works of art, several in Oregon, as well as the “Fountain of Time” in Chicago’s Washington Park and “Alma Mater” at the University of Illinois, Urbana.

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