Saturday, February 12, 2011

Illinois Centennial Monument at Logan Square (Part Two)

My February 5, 2011 blog gave the background information on Logan Square, the section of Chicago in which the city erected the monument that marked a century of Illinois statehood.  The community was part of the grand system of parks and boulevards worked out late in the nineteenth century, a forward-looking plan that shaped the green spaces that the city has today.
General John A. Logan

Logan Park, annexed by the city in 1889, was named after the civil war general John A. Logan.  Logan was another one of those huge figures that populated Chicago as it grew to prominence in the middle of the 19th century.  He served in the United States Congress before and after the Civil War, before the war as a Democrat in the House of Representatives, after as a Republican in the Senate. Promoted to Major General in 1864, Logan commanded the Army of the Tennessee during the Battle of Atlanta in July of that year.   

In addition to the honors given him in Logan Square, there is a statue of Logan in Grant Park and another equestrian statue stands in Logan Square in Washington, D. C.  Logan's name is one of only three mentioned in the Illinois state song.

On the record of thy years
Abraham Lincoln's name appears.
Grant and Logan, and our tears,
Illinois, Illinois . . .
Grant and Logan, and our tears,

Henry Bacon

The Illinois Centennial Column, dedicated in 1918, was the work of Henry Bacon, the Illinois-born architect whose most famous commission was the Lincoln Memorial of 1922, perhaps the most cherished memorial in the nation's capital. 

According to Logan Square Preservation, the column is of the same proportion and scale as the columns that make up the colonnade of the Parthenon in Athens.  An understandable decision since it links the one-hundredth anniversary of statehood to the first great democracy in history.

Thirteen solid marble segments of Tennessee pink marble make up the Illinois Centennial column as it rises 42 and-a-half feet.  It stands atop a 15' 3" base, carved in bas relief.  Atop the column, seated on a statified prairie bolder, sits and eagle with wings spread.  The symbol of Illinois and the United States, it measure ten feet in height.  the eagle, along with the bas reliefs of the base, are the work of Evelyn Beatrice Longman, the first woman to be elected to the National Academy of Design in 1919. 

Evelyn Longman
Longman was inspired to begin a career in sculpture and decoration at the age of 19 when she visited 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.  She studied under Lorado Taft at the Art Institute of Chicago, earning her four-year degree in two years.  "What distinguished Longman," wrote Margaret Samu, a Longman scholar,"was her commitment to monumental sculpture, an arena usually occupied by men.  Although some women of Longman's generation created large scale works, she was the first who built her career on that basis." [Smithsonian Institution]

Longman's bas reliefs surrounding the base of the column depict allegorical figures representing Agriculture, Transportation, Labor and Fine Arts. The explorers Pere Marquette, Robert de LaSalle and William Clark, along with Native Americans provide a panorama of the state's first one hundred years of existence and its link to the ideals of freedom and democracy.

The inscription on the north side of the base reads:  "To commemorate the centenary of the admission of Illinois as a sovereign state of the American Union December Third MDCCCSVIII."  Underneath that inscription is another that reads, "Erected by the Trustees of the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund MCMXVIII."  

Benjamin Franklin Ferguson was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania in 1839 and was among that generation of adventurers who came to Chicago just prior to the fire and made their fortune.  Ferguson worked exclusively in lumber and made a fortune doing so . . . enough so that after traveling in Europe where he was impressed with the public sculpture, he vowed to bring to Chicago that same sensitivity to public art.

When he died in 1905 he left one million dollars in trust to the Art Institute of Chicago, and that B. F. Ferguson fund was to be used "entirely and exclusively . . . under the direction of its Board of Trustees in the erection and maintenance of enduring statuary and monuments, in the whole or in the part of stone, granite, or bronze, in the parks, along the boulevards or in other public places, within the city of Chicago, Illinois, commemorating worthy men or women of America or important events in American history." [Garvey. Public Sculptor:  Lorado Taft and the Beautification of Chicago. University of Illinois Press, 1988.]

Mestrovic's Spearman, a Ferguson fund sculpture
(JWB photo, 2009)
Some 20 sculptures in Chicago have been funded by the Ferguson fund.  The first was Lorado Taft's "Fountain of Time," that sits on a pedestal designed by Henry Bacon in front of the Morton wing, the southwest section of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Taft's allegorical sculpture was dedicated on September 9, 1913.   

The Ferguson fund has provided such works as the sculptures on the south pylons (Defense and Regeneration) of the DuSable Bridge carrying Michigan Avenue across the Chicago River, Ivan Mestrovic's Bowman and Spearman, just east of Michigan Avenue on Congress, and Henry Moore's Nuclear Energy at the University of Chicago. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Jim, I am trying to use this post as a source for a LoganSquarist article on the Monument. Could I have your last name, so I can reference you and cite the blog?