The unwrapping of the Black Hawk statue Friday morning revealed that the beloved landmark has deteriorated in the last 18 months.
“Under the left elbow it’s worse. And the front where the leg is — that’s in dire condition,” said Karly Spell, a member of the Oregon Together Black Hawk Restoration Team.
She also pointed out cracks near the head of the statue and on the left shoulder that weren’t apparent before.
Oregon Mayor Ken Williams agreed. “The right shoulder looks worse, too,” he said.
Keith Niles, the supervisor of the crew from Quality Restorations Inc., of Wood Dale, said the tarps and the padding underneath did their job by keeping moisture away from the statue.
“It’s nice and dry under there,” he said, shortly after the wraps came off.
Sculptor Lorado Taft created the 48-foot concrete statue as a tribute to Native Americans in 1910. It was unveiled and dedicated in 1911.
Taft called his statue the Eternal Indian, but it has been known as Black Hawk from the start, for the Sauk and Fox medicine man whose people frequented the area.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009, the concrete statue needs repairs due to the ravages of weather and time.
Over the years, despite numerous repair efforts, parts of the statue have crumbled and fallen off. Winter weather has been especially devastating.
An examination in 2014 revealed that the most damaged areas are 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.
Black Hawk was named to the state’s list of Most Endangered Historic Places in 2015 by Landmarks Illinois.
The Black Hawk Restoration Team was formed several months ago to continue previous fundraising efforts to pay for the statue’s repairs.
A estimated $500,000 is needed to complete the repair process started in 2014 by the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue.
A long-promised $350,000 state grant finally approved last week by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday will help.
Black Hawk Restoration Team Chairman Jan Stilson said fundraising efforts should continue, even with the approval of the grant, which was originally promised in 2009.
Repairs may cost more than anticipated, she said, “and then there’s maintenance.”
Checks can be sent to Oregon Together Black Hawk Team, PO Box 574, Oregon, Il 61061.