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Weather delays final tests on the Black Hawk statue

Portions of the Black Hawk statue have fallen from the icon as evidenced in this recent photo. Photo by Earleen Hinton
Portions of the Black Hawk statue have fallen from the icon as evidenced in this recent photo. Photo by Earleen Hinton

Early winter weather this month has delayed the final tests on the Black Hawk Statue.

Frank Rausa, Sterling, who is heading up an effort to repair the 102-year-old world renowned icon, said experts will likely return in early January to Lowden State Park, where the statue stands of a high bluff overlooking the Rock River.

Three experts, a structural engineer, preservation architect, and conservation architect, will be on the site to do further study of the repairs that are needed to reverse the effects of time and weather and preserve the statue.

"They're going to spend a couple of days doing some sound testing," Rausa said. "We just need a little weather cooperation."

The experts had planned to do the last tests early this month until several snowstorms and frigid weather prevented that.

A team of experts spent nearly a week in October examining the damage to the statue and performing tests.

Engineers used high-tech scanners which allowed them to see inside the concrete to assess its condition and to determine the amount and location of steel reinforcing.

The locations of the steel were then marked on tape placed on the statue's hollow interior.

Another crew scanned the statue with rotating lasers to create an exact 3-D model of the statue.

The testing, which also included ground-penetrating radar work and ultrasonic tomography, was finished Oct. 11.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1911 as a tribute to all Native Americans and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the statue is situated on a 125-foot bluff. It draws thousands of visitors each year.

The statue has developed cracks, and large pieces of its concrete surface have dislodged. The folded arms of the 50-foot monolith have been especially affected.

The cost for the assessment and repairs was estimated at $625,000. Much of that money has been raised.

Rausa, a member of The Friends of the Blackhawk Statue Committee, said the price tag for the study and repairs is up to $700,000 now and could go even higher.

More than half the money already raised for the project came from a $350,000 grant the IDNR received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The rest came from donations, as well as funds raised during the annual Oregon Trail Days festival held at Lowden Park since 2010.

A large contributor was the Jeffris Family Foundation, Janesville, Wis., which gave a $150,000 matching grant.

Recently the Chicago Black Hawks hockey team got on board with what Rausa said is a sizable donation, although he declined to specify how much.

The statue is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Repair work is expected to begin as soon as the weather is warm enough in the spring.

The sooner, the better, Rausa said, because Black Hawk's condition is steadily deteriorating.

He hopes enough money will be raised so that the original pinkish color of the statue can be restored.

To donate to the statue funds checks can be made out to the Illinois Conservation Foundation and marked for the Black Hawk Statue.

Donations can be mailed to Illinois Conservation Foundation, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield IL 62702.

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