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Damage to Black Hawk statue more than expected

The $724,000 already raised for the repair and restoration of the Black Hawk statue probably won't be enough.

"We have sufficient funds to do 80 percent of the work," said Frank Rausa, Sterling, who is heading up the effort to repair the 103-year-old world renowned icon that overlooks the Rock River at Lowden State Park near Oregon.

He said he will not have a better estimate of the total cost until repair work actually begins on the statue later this summer.

"Until we start removing the exterior surface we won't know the full extent of the damage," he said.

Rausa is a member of the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue, an organization that has been working to secure funding for the repairs. 

He held a press conference Tuesday morning at Maxson's Riverside Restaurant to outline the repair and restoration plan.

Engineer Amy Lamb Woods said testing and evaluations done recently show that three areas of the Black Hawk statue are in dire need of repairs.

"Three areas of the statue show significant deterioration," she said.

Woods is an engineer with Thorton Tomasetti, Chicago, an architectural firm that provides engineering design, investigation, and analysis services to clients worldwide.

The folded arms of the statue, especially the elbows and underneath the arms; the middle of the robe; and the vertical fold in the robe from armpit to toe are the critical areas, Woods said.

The areas are spalled, meaning chunks of concrete have already fallen out, and delineated, meaning areas of concrete are loose and ready to fall.

Woods was a member of the team of experts who measured, cored, and poked the statue last fall and again this spring to find out how bad the toll taken by the ravages of time and weather actually is.

"The damage is way more than we expected," she said. 

In fact, the statue has deteriorated significantly since close-up photos were taken in 2008. Last winter's cold and snow further hastened the aging process.

Getting the work done is urgent, Woods said, before the statue's surface deteriorates even more.

Woods' presentation included photos of the damaged areas, as well as illustrations of how the statue was constructed, and a plan for how to restore it.

The plan still needs the approval of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency, Rausa said.

The statue is under the jurisdiction of the IDNR.

Once approved, the repair work will include removing bushes, which are holding moisture at the base of the statue; putting up scaffolding; and then removing the damaged areas.

After that experts will create forms that exactly duplicate the lines and curves of the statue. The arms and other damaged areas will be remolded using a mixture of materials that matches the current concrete as closely as possible.

"The urgency now is to put a very large restoration project in place," she said.

The process will be slow and painstaking, Woods said, and probably will not be completed this year.

She said she hopes the scaffolding will be in place by mid-July with the work beginning sometime in August.

The statue will be covered with a tent over the winter to protect it from even more damage.

Woods said the statue has been patched and repairs numerous times over the years.

Ironically, epoxy injections done in 1989-1990 to repair cracks actually made the damage worse, she said.

"Epoxy is plastic," Woods said. "It actually traps water and cause even more freeze-thaw damage."

The epoxy will be removed from the cracks and the cracks will be repaired, she said.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 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. 

"It is a huge honor to work on this project," Woods said. "We understand the significance of a Lorado Taft statue."

Rausa said fundraising efforts will continue.

"We will be seeking donations. We will be knocking on doors again," he said.

Nearly 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.

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

To donate 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.

Additional information about the damage and restoration will be published in next week's papers.

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