Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Alexander Hamilton Statue Dedication -- December 16, 1954

This is a 1952 Hamilton . . . Apparently, somewhere
there is a 1954 Hamilton (JWB Photo)
The great thing about research is that often researchers start out in a certain direction and end up heading into an alley that they didn’t even know existed.  That happened to me this afternoon.

I learned that on this date, December 16, back in 1954 a statue of Alexander Hamilton was placed in Grant Park near the Illinois Central tracks between Madison and Monroe.  Apparently the statue had existed previously and was removed while the first underground garage in Grant Park was being constructed.

I’ve been interested in the Hamilton statue for a number of years and have written at least three blogs pertaining to it in one way or another.  They can be found here, here and here.  Yet, the Hamilton statue that I wrote about must be a different statue than the one placed in Grant Park in 1954 – the statue in Lincoln Park was unveiled two years earlier than the one remounted in Grant Park. 

Clearly, there would be no reason to dig up a perfectly good gilded statue in a swell location and stick it next to the Illinois Central tracks.

So . . . there must be a second Alexander Hamilton statue that at some point made its farewell address and headed out of Grant Park.

Some digging revealed that there was such a statue, the last work of significance sculpted by Bela Lyon Pratt, who studied at the École des Beaux Arts and with August Saint-Gaudens.  The architectural work was executed by Charles A. Coolidge (Think Shepley, Routan and Coolidge, the Boston firm that designed the Art Institute and the Chicago Cultural Center building).  The Grant Park Hamilton was unveiled on September 28, 1918.  Frank G. Logan, the vice-president of the B. F. Ferguson monument fund, made the presentation.  [Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1918]

The re-dedication of Pratt's statue on September 28, 1918
(Chicago Tribune Photo)
Anyone know where it is?  Because in the duel of the two statues this one clearly lost.

Oh, and by the way.  The other Alexander Hamilton statue -- the one that Kate Buckingham left a million dollars to create and take care of -- that one is gone now, too. 

There isn’t much of mystery there.  A sign posted next to the polished granite base on which the statue once stood reads, “The Alexander Hamilton statue is temporarily removed for conservation of its gilded finish . . . Funding for this project is provided by the Kate S. Buckingham Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago.”

With luck Mr. Hamilton will be back by the Fall of 2016.

The other Hamilton, the one that got stuck on the wrong side of the tracks back in 1954?  I hope he’s somewhere warm, and that someone is taking good care of him.

The gilded guy has also said farewell . . .
just a polished granite base remains (JWB Photo)

2 comments:

adgorn said...

I found your article about the older Hamilton statue to be intriguing. I do not recall ever seeing that statue. Being a Chicago statue enthusiast, I decided to dig a bit. A 1969 Tribune article indicated the statue had been “set against concrete wall 100 yards N of Art Institute.” I then found references to the statue in my trusty volumes: “Chicago Sculpture” by James Reidy (1981) as well as “A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture” by Ira Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray (1983.) So it still had to be in place in ’83. I then found a reference 04/20/1984 in the Tribune article titled “Clean-ups in store for city statues.” I had to switch to the newer Tribune archive, where I found the last reference on 10/19/1995 in an article focused on the then new bust of Montgomery Ward that was placed along Michigan Avenue. Since the re-positioning of the Hamilton statue put it in the area of the Crown Fountain now, I have to believe the statute was removed at the time of the planning and renovation of Millennium Park which I believe started around 2000. So it’s probably in the Chicago Park District's storage now.

Ed McDevitt said...

Here we are almost a year after your post, and I've just read it.

According the correspondence I've had with the Chicago Park District, the Pratt "Hamilton" was placed in storage in the possession of the art Institute of Chicago when Millennium Park was constructed. The Park District attempted to work with the Art Institute to install it at another location, but that installation never materialized. So it remains in storage.

Ed McDevitt
Executive Director
Public Art Chicago