An Oregon woman raised the question at Tuesday’s city council meeting that nearly everyone has been asking.
“What has happened to Black Hawk?” asked Marine Kuethe.
Mayor Ken Williams answered the best he could.
“It’s my understanding that he’s going to be unwrapped soon,” he replied, adding that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants as little fanfare and no TV cameras when the contractor they’ve hired to repair the iconic statue finally pulls off the black protective covering to begin the work.
“What’s the hold-up?” Kuethe persisted.
“The rain,” was Williams’ response.
He said experts from Quality Restorations Inc., of Wood Dale, the contractor, have determined the right mix of concrete to match the statue and restore the large areas that have broken off, as well as filling cracks in its surface.
The wet spiring and early summer has proved problematic, he said, because dry weather is required to prevent the patched areas from getting wet before they are sufficiently cured.
“Once they get started it won’t take long,” Williams said, assuring Kuethe that the repairs should be completed by the end of this summer.
The statue, created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1910 as a tribute to Native Americans, is situated on a high bluff overlooking the Rock River at Lowden State Park and has drawn thousands of visitors each summer.
Time and weather have significantly damaged the surface of the landmark, which was unveiled and dedicated in 1911.
Currently the statue is still wrapped in the black plastic covering applied last fall to protect it from the winter weather.
Except for a brief respite last summer, it has been covered for most of the last five years in an effort to keep its surface from further deterioration.
Local fundraising efforts raised the last of the needed money for the project last fall to successfully secure a matching grant from the state.
The Black Hawk Restoration Team, now called the Black Hawk Arts, Restoration & Development Committee has tentatively planned a rededication ceremony of the statue during Autumn on Parade the first weekend in October.