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Chicago Sculpture "The Republic"

Daniel Chester French
The Republic
Daniel Chester French
SouthwestNews-Herald online

Bronze Sculpture Is Part of Chicago's Lore

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was complaining recently that the city was only listed 10th as a destination point for foreign tourists.

The mayor, concerned about generating revenue in a cash-strapped era, seemed offended at this, stating we can do much better. He called for more tourist information centers to inform the inhabitants of Brazil, Japan, Spain and so on to experience Chicago.

However, some mindsets are difficult to change. On a recent "Chicago in Review" segment on Channel 11, a reporter said that even when the city helped host an event in Brussels, Belgium in preparation for the NATO Summit, not that much was known about the country's third largest city.

The name Al Capone is mentioned and our history of violence is always discussed.

Well, I'm not offended. We could do a better job of selling our city, that's for sure. But it is hardly unlikely these global neighbors will make their way to the neighborhoods. If they come, they will visit the "Bean," Buckingham Fountain, the Magnificent Mile and our lakefront, which are unique and beautiful.

If foreign tourists find their way to our city to visit Taste of Chicago and summer activities at Grant Park, that's great. Hopefully, they will spend lots of money. The city could use it.

No one has to sell me on Chicago. I love it, warts and all. But in a city this size, there are little gems that often get overlooked or not noticed at all. On the Southwest Side, we have our little "landmarks." One example is that ever-present Indian that towers over traffic at 63rd and Pulaski. He even had a cameo appearance in the "Wayne's World" film in the early 1990s.

I thought about this on Saturday afternoon while at Jackson Park on the city's far Southeast Side. I went there to see my son take part in a baseball practice session.

It's been a long time since I've actually been in this sprawling park that borders the Museum of Science and Industry north along 57th Street, Lake Shore Drive to the east and Stony Island to the west. My father would occasionally golf there and I most likely played baseball there in high school.

But while driving toward the baseball diamonds on Saturday, I noticed a large bronze statue about 100 feet or so from the Jackson Park Golf Course clubhouse.

While my son began practicing, I strolled over with my camera and took a few shots. Information is provided about 20 feet in front of the statue. It turns out I was standing at what was once the headquarters for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the first time Chicago hosted a world's fair.

The gilded bronze sculpture is a reproduction of "The Republic," which stood 65 feet high in the Court of Honor at the 1893 World's Fair. Most of the structures from the architectural wonder, including a giant Ferris wheel, were destroyed after the Exposition. The Republic perished in a fire in 1896.

The reproduction stands 24 feet high but stands out at the southern end of Jackson Park along Hayes Drive. In 1918, the French were commissioned to make a smaller model to mark the 25th anniversary of the Exposition. The sculpture was completed by Daniel Chester French. The base was done by Henry Bacon.

But one building is still present from that event, the Exposition's Palace of Fine Arts, which is now the Museum of Science and Industry. Baseball and soccer fields stand where the Court of Honor and basin were located nearly 120 years ago.

The structure was rededicated in 1992, with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley attending to mark what would soon be the 100th anniversary of the Exposition.

Foreign tourists is one thing but growing up here is another. It just proves that we can still find landmarks in our own city, that is if we care to take the time to look.

Spatial Thoughts on Sculpture by Bill West
Such a great story and so well told by Joe Boyle, just a GREAT READ!! That equation pops up again Time + Message + Design = Life divided Story = SCULPTURE... A 24 foot reproduction of a 65 foot original that perished in a fire... you can't make this up! Sculpture is so often at the forefront of society not only in historical ways, but in so many other of life's twists and turns.