Ulysses S. Grant, John Peter Altgeld and Alexander Hamilton are among several notables who call Lincoln Park home.
Of course, the historical figures dwell in the form of statues peppered throughout the community along with other monuments that also share a rich history. That past was the highlight Tuesday night of "Lincoln Park on a Pedestal," a panel discussion coordinated by the Lincoln Park Community Research Initiative highlighting the neighborhood's "hidden history" through the prism of its sculptures.
Held in DePaul University's Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont, the evening's program included Krista August, author of "Giants in the Park"; internationally renown sculptor Richard Hunt; and Mother Cabrini Chapel architect, Mark Sullivan.
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"It's interesting to me and something that I feel as a sculptor, very gratified by … is the many ways … that sculpture comes to be part of the community's not only cultural, recreational life but sort of … the fabric of the community," said Hunt, who is responsible for erecting the Eagle Columns outside Jonquil Park, south of West Wrightwood and west of North Sheffield avenues.
The 1989 trio of birds appear to be rising from bronze pylons and memorialize politician John Peter Altgeld and poet Vachel Lindsay, said Hunt. He works out of an old CTA trolley barn in the 1000 block of West Lill, which allows him to build the towering artistic structures he's often known for.
Altgeld made a career-destroying decision during the late 19th century to review the cases of the anarchists who had been blamed for the Haymarket Riot of 1886, according to the Chicago Park District's explanation of the statues.
"Altgeld became convinced that the men had been unfairly convicted of murder, and despite public outcry, he pardoned the three living 'bombers' in 1893," according to the park district. "Altgeld received harsh criticism even after his death. This sentiment finally changed in 1913, when Vachel Lindsay published 'The Eagle that is Forgotten,' a poem that prompted many citizens to recognize the previous governor as a forgotten hero."
Confirming such facts was August, North Side author and artist, who discussed questions about the sculptures in and around the Lincoln Park, including one of the "most asked"—Why is there a Ulysses S. Grant Statue in Lincoln Park and Abraham Lincoln statue in Grant Park?
"Well, there is a Lincoln statue in both parks and, by the way, in both parks, the statue was done by Augustus Saint-Gaudens," she said. "There's a Grant statue in Lincoln Park because there was no Grant Park in 1891, when this statue was installed. Grant park wasn't named grant park until 1901 and at that time it was not the great place of leisure that it is today. Lincoln Park was the obvious place."
She stressed that Ulysses S. Grant was the most popular man of the century, citing the fact that he never once campaigned and was elected to two terms as U.S. President.
"He never asked for a vote," she said, later noting that 36 years after the Civil War ended and 16 years after he died, Grant Park was still named in his honor.
About 175 people showed for Tuesday's free program—one of more than two dozen that's been offered through the research initiative since its start 14 years ago. The LPCRI is a partnership between residents and DePaul University intended to "highlight the history we've shared for 114 years," said the university's director of community relations Fran Casey.
Among those enjoying the anecdotes was Lincoln Park resident Patty O'Neil, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. Her favorite tidbit? The fact that most of the statues in Lincoln Park face south except for two—that of Benjamin Franklin, which can be found on the Northeast Corner of LaSalle and Stockton drives; and that of Friedrich Schiller, which is near the western entrance to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
"It's always fun to learn new things about the neighborhood you live and work in," O'Neil said.
Editor's Note: This article was updated Nov. 28 to reflect the correct north and south facing statues in Lincoln Park.
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