A jewel of a sculpture

Chicago never ceases to amaze me. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years, and I’m always finding unexpected things. Today was just the latest example, and I wanted to take a few minutes to tell the story here.

In June of 1865, just a month after Abraham Lincoln’s casket had come through town, Chicago renamed a street called Little Fort Road as Lincoln Avenue. Lincoln is now a major street on the  North side of Chicago, eventually meeting up with US Route 41. And along Lincoln Street, there was a building with a terra cotta facade and a bas relief portrait of Abraham Lincoln. I never saw the building myself, as it was built in 1922 and torn down in 1974. But before it was torn down, arrangements were apparently made to preserve the Lincoln sculpture, as it was presented to the  Chicago Public Library.

I first came upon the sculpture this afternoon inside a large library on–what else–Lincoln Avenue. It had a plaque alongside it, but the life-size bust of Lincoln was striking all by itself. I stood in front of this likeness for a few minutes, grateful that people had honored Lincoln: first by creating this work,  and then by preserving it long enough that I could see it. After all, I was six years old and a long way from Chicago when the building that originally housed this artwork came down.

Lincoln’s greatness is something that can never be forgotten. He almost single-handedly succeeded in preserving the Union, while also ending the most monstrous injustice that America has ever committed. The continuing fascination with him, in a culture that otherwise doesn’t seem to value its past very much, is an inspiration to me.

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