Posts Tagged 'Monuments'

The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #2—Answers

(1) WHO is this?  Richard Oglesby (1824-1899)

(2) WHERE is this?  2630 N. Cannon Dr. (Lincoln Park)

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue? Governor of Illinois, U.S. Senator


The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #2

(1) WHO is this?

(2) WHERE is this?

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue?


The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #1—Answers

(1) WHO is this?  Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

(2) WHERE is this?  435 N. Michigan Ave.

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue? American Revolution Hero


The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #1

This blog originated on the Tribune‘s ChicagoNow platform in 2009.  One of the features was a quiz on Chicago’s statues.  When I moved to WBEZ in 2011, I substituted a Chicago Trivia Quiz during Tony Sarabia’s “Morning Show” broadcast, and stopped doing the statues on the blog.

Public monuments have been in the news recently, so now is an appropriate time to look at some of the people honored with statues in and around Chicago.  No prizes, just a little fun!

(1) WHO is this?

(2) WHERE is this?

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue?



The Balbo Column

In 1933 Chicago staged a World’s Fair in Burnham Park. July 15 marked one of the Fair’s highlights. Shortly after 6 p.m., the Balbo Air Squadron arrived in the waters of Lake Michigan.

Aviation was still exciting and dangerous in 1933—only six years had passed since Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight. Now General Italo Balbo, head of the Italian Air Force, had brought his fleet of twenty-four seaplanes on a goodwill trip from Rome to Chicago. Because of bad weather and an accident along the way, the journey had taken two weeks.

But now they were here, safely moored off Navy Pier. A few minutes after the landing, Balbo himself strolled onto the deck of his seaplane, coolly surveying the cheering thousands who had gathered on shore—he looked as if he were “going to afternoon tea,” one reporter wrote. He lit a cigarette and smiled.

General Italo Balbo

For the next three days, the city went Balbo-crazy. The General and his fliers were feted with a rally in Soldier Field, speeches, parades, banquets, and official proclamations. Seventh Street was renamed Balbo Drive. The hoopla was later spoofed by the Marx Brothers in their movie A Night at the Opera. Then, at the end of the three days, the intrepid crew flew back to Rome.

That’s the way it looked in 1933. But as Paul Harvey used to say, now for the rest of the story.

The Italian government that sponsored the Balbo Air Squadron was the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini. Balbo himself was a true believer, often referred to as the Duce’s “right-hand man.” The brutality of the Fascist regime was already well-known. Yet many apologists accepted such “difficulties” as the price of progress. One bit of wisdom declared: “Mussolini may be bad, but he makes the trains run on time.”

Mussolini also knew something about public relations. On the first anniversary of the flight, he sent Chicago an ancient temple column as a gift—though he sent it by ship, and not by plane. Balbo himself spoke from Rome via radio-phone at the dedication ceremony. “Let this column stand as a symbol of increasing friendship between the people of Italy and the people of the United States,” the General said. The Balbo Column, as it became known, was erected in the park east of Soldier Field.

General Italo Balbo was killed in 1940, his plane hit by friendly fire. There was suspicion that Mussolini ordered an assassination to remove a popular rival.

Following fascist Italy’s defeat in World War II, the new government’s ambassador to the United States suggested that marks of respect to the Mussolini regime be removed. Shortly afterward, a Chicago alderman proposed renaming Balbo Drive, though nothing was said about the Balbo Column. In any case, both the street name and the column remained.

The Balbo Column

Time appeared to heal the wounds of war. In 1973 the Museum of Science and Industry celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the Balbo Air Squadron with a special exhibit. Each year there were fewer and fewer irate letters demanding that the street name be changed or the monument be removed. Most Chicagoans figured that the street was named Balboa, after the Spanish explorer who sighted the Pacific Ocean.

There was no mistaking what the Balbo Column was about. Carved into its base was a florid inscription in Italian declaring that “Fascist Italy Under the Auspices of Benito Mussolini” was presenting this monument to the City of Chicago in honor of the Balbo Squadron. Instead of 1933, the date of the historic flight is given as “The Eleventh Year of the Fascist Era.”

In 2017 the protests over Confederate statues and other dated artifacts have caused Chicagoans to revisit the Balbo question. Once again, there are calls to change the name of Balbo Drive. This time it may happen.

What to do with the Balbo Column is not so easily resolved—after all, its pedigree predates the “Fascist Era” by two millennia. The area where it stands is now known as Gold Star Families Memorial Park, in honor of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Why not put a new plaque on the column and re-dedicate it to them?

But please use an aluminum plaque. A copper one might be stolen.


Chicago’s Oldest Public Monument

Chicago has hundreds of statues, monuments, and historical markers. But unless you do a little exploring, you’re likely to miss the oldest one.

In 1833, as Chicago and the Midwest were starting to grow, Congress ordered a new survey of the boundary between Illinois and Indiana. When the survey was completed, a 15-foot high limestone obelisk was put in place on the shore of Lake Michigan, straddling the state line.

Illinois-Indiana Boundary Marker

Illinois-Indiana Boundary Marker

Civilization gradually engulfed the boundary marker. The shoreline was extended north by landfill. Multiple railroad lines came through. Commonwealth Edison built a huge generating plant. The South Park Commissioners laid out Calumet Park.

By the 1980s the marker was isolated and neglected among the rail yards. Allen J. Benson, a ComEd executive, convinced the company to sponsor its restoration, in conjunction with the East Side Historical Society and other interested groups. In 1988 the marker was moved 190 feet north to its present location, just outside the plant gate. A new base was added at that time.

Before the work was finished, Benson died. A plaque next to the boundary marker was dedicated to his memory.

Chicago’s oldest monument—and Hammond’s too, for that matter—is difficult to find. It’s located at what would be the intersection of State Line Road and 103rd Street.

In Memory of Allen J. Benson (1928-1987)

In Memory of Allen J. Benson (1928-1987)

The best way to get there is to approach from the north, via 95th Street. Go east on 95th past Ewing, then turn right onto Crilly Drive. Continue south on Crilly, along the western edge of Calumet Park, to the junction with Avenue G. Turn right on Avenue G, keep going south past the park’s Field House, until you arrive at 100th Street.

Now you will see some grade-level railroad tracks on your right. Ahead of you, parallel to the tracks, a small access road continues south-southeast. Follow this road to its end, at the old ComEd plant and the boundary marker.

The access road you just took doesn’t have an official name. This has led to some confusion. Since the road continues the route of Avenue G, most reference sources will tell you that the boundary marker is located on Avenue G, at 103rd Street-extended.

Trouble is, a few blocks away, there is a real intersection of Avenue G and 103rd Street.

So let’s end the confusion. Name the access road along tracks “Allen J. Benson Drive.” How expensive are a couple of street signs?


Where Have You Gone, General Logan?

“General John Logan/ sits on a horse/ on top of a hill/ in Grant Park in Chicago.”

The nursery rhyme gives you the bare facts. But who was General John Logan? And more important to our story, what’s that hill doing there?

The general on the horse on the hill

The general on the horse on the hill

John Alexander Logan was a Civil War general and a two-term U.S. Senator from Illinois. He was the driving force behind establishing Memorial Day as a national holiday. Logan ran for vice president on the unsuccessful Republican ticket in 1884, and was considered one of the front-runners for the next presidential election. Then, in December 1886, he suddenly died.

Logan was given the rare honor of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. He was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, back in Logan’s home state, a grand plan was taking shape.

General John Logan

General John Logan

Former President Ulysses S. Grant—THE great Civil War general—had died in 1885. Grant had been a citizen of Illinois, but New York City was building a mausoleum to house his remains. Now Chicago would show those Eastern body-snatchers. Chicago would build a mausoleum for General Logan.

Three days after Logan’s death, the Chicago city council voted to donate land in Lakefront (Grant) Park for his tomb. The South Park Commissioners and the Illinois state legislature soon got on the bandwagon. A total of $64,000 was appropriated for the project–serious money in 1886.

Logan’s widow preferred to have him stay in the District. However, she agreed to give way to the Chicago plan. A site opposite 9th Street was selected. When she visited the city the following summer, newspaper reports said Mrs. Logan was arranging the transfer of her husband’s remains.

The general’s body was moved on the second anniversary of his death, December 26, 1888. But he didn’t go to Chicago. Instead, he was simply transported across Washington and interred in the National Soldiers Home Cemetery.

The Chicago tomb wasn’t yet ready. Grave-robbing was a concern in those times—thieves had nearly made off with Lincoln’s body—and Mrs. Logan felt security was better at Soldiers Home than at Rock Creek.

In 1897 the Logan monument was dedicated in Chicago. America’s greatest sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, designed the heroic equestrian statue. It was set on a large mound that could easily be converted to a tomb.

Mrs. Logan attended the ceremony and was visibly touched. But by now she’d changed her mind about bringing her husband with her. The general stayed in Washington. And Chicago had to make do honoring him with Logan Square, Logan Boulevard, Logan School, and the Logan Square Community Area.