The 'Black Hawk' Restoration Is Moving Forward, But Its Future Is Still Uncertain

Apr 27, 2017

Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ

An effort to restore an Ogle County icon is advancing, but there’s still no money for actual repairs. 

The years have not been kind to Lorado Taft’s monumental statue, known to many as “Black Hawk.” Standing high on a bluff overlooking the Rock River near Oregon, it’s literally falling to pieces.  

Illinois State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Rochelle, says he’s been in regular contact with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has authority over the statue. Demmer says that, despite the lack of a budget and other problems, some progress is being made.

He says the department found money from their own operational funds to pay for an architecture and engineering study to assess the scope of needed repairs and restoration.  That study will be shared with the conservators who would carry out the project. 

Previous estimates put the cost of restoration at close to a million dollars. A private campaign begun nine years ago eventually raised three quarters of that.  But a 2016 clash between the former conservator on the project and the IDNR brought efforts to a halt while the department looked for a replacement. A promised $350,000 state grant to help complete the project was put on hold along with the rest of the state budget. 

Lorado Taft created the work more than a hundred years ago at his Eagle’s Nest Artist colony, now Lowden State Park.   Demmer says the statue draws a lot of tourists, but that’s not the only reason to restore it.

“It’s a source of local community pride, and rightfully so," he says. "[The statue is] a long-storied connection to Lorado Taft and the artist’s colony, and I think for us to be able preserve that landmark is important both culturally and economically.”

Demmer says what’s needed next is a budget for Illinois and a capital plan that includes money to do the actual restoration.