Springfield Journal Register

February 15, 2006

Lincoln statues in need of help
Panel: Two in Springfield among more than 100 needing restoration


WASHINGTON - The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission on Tuesday endorsed an effort aimed at restoring more than 100 outdoor Lincoln sculptures across the country, including two in Springfield and one in Lincoln.

As the commission plans for a national celebration of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth in 2009, the statues are one of the more tangible reminders of the legacy of the 16th president.

Lincoln is the most depicted person in America's public sculpture with more than 220 outdoor sculptures, but more than half are in "serious disrepair," according to the Smithsonian's Inventory of American Sculpture.

In Illinois, 14 Lincoln statues are on that list. The two in Springfield are: "Abraham Lincoln on the Prairie" by Anna Hyatt Huntington and "Lincoln Trail Monument" by Nellie Verne Walker. Both are owned by the state. In Lincoln, "Lincoln the Student" by Merrell Gage is owned by Lincoln College.

The other Illinois Lincoln statues are in Charleston, Chicago, Clinton, Decatur, Dixon and Quincy.

The commission's endorsement allows a nonprofit group, Heritage Preservation, to use the Lincoln commission's logo to raise funds and to provide technical expertise for local communities embarking on restoration projects.

"So often, these sculptures are overlooked. We're anticipating as the bicentennial draws near, more and more community events will take place at the location of these Lincoln sculptures. We want the sculptures to be well cared for. We don't want people to look up and see this deteriorating piece of sculpture just as we're commemorating this important president," said Moira Egan, vice president of Heritage Preservation.

The group would launch the proposed program, "Lincoln SOS! - Saving Abraham Lincoln's Monumental Legacy," once it raises sufficient funding. The goal is to have the conserved sculptures rededicated in 2009.

Restoring about 30 Lincoln sculptures and producing related educational materials would cost about $850,000, according to the group's proposal. A priority list of sculptures will be developed based on the success of the fundraising efforts, Egan said.

The bicentennial commission's newest member, Springfield resident Julie Cellini, called the focus on outdoor sculpture appropriate.

"It's the most accessible type of art there is," said Cellini, who chairs the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.