The Eternal Indian Statue's Wisdom from Follies

Tuesday, October 28, 2014: 8:20 AM
Presenter: Amy Lamb Woods, PE , Thornton Tomasetti, Chicago, IL
Co-Presenter: Anne T. Sullivan, FAIA , Sullivan | Preservation, Chicago, IL
The poured-in-place concrete Eternal Indian sculpture (known locally as the “Blackhawk”) designed by noted sculptor Lorado Taft in 1911 has been subjected to much drama throughout its 100-plus years. The story begins when Taft envisioned a grand 50-foot statue of an American Indian gazing over the countryside atop a 125-foot bluff of the Rock River, at what is now Lowden State Park in Oregon, Illinois. Construction during freezing winter temperatures challenged fresh concrete placement practices and warming techniques used by the round-the-clock crews. Formwork was removed in the Spring of 1911, revealing some areas needing initial patching. Restoration efforts have been a consistent part of the life of the Blackhawk, where recorded repairs were undertaken in 1945, the 1970s, 1986, 1990 and now again in 2014. Although these efforts through the decades were well intentioned, some of these failed immediately and others caused adjacent original material to fail. 

The presentation will tell the story of this beloved statue and illustrate previous treatments that were incompatible with the original concrete, and then discuss current conservation efforts that are designed to be more compatible, durable, and sympathetic. Past treatments included patching, epoxy injection, parge coating, and sealing. Evaluation, laboratory testing, and material mockups were devised to understand the existing materials, both original and from past-repairs, so that appropriate new treatments could be developed. This project was undertaken by an interdisciplinary team comprised of an Engineer, Preservation Consultant, and Conservator working together to breathe life back into the Blackhawk Statue and return it to the monolithic masterpiece that Taft dreamed of.

(We can happily supply you with some photos of the Blackhawk Statue; it is truly spectacular and a wonderfully unique project.)

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