ENGLEWOOD — A 3-foot-tall bust of Abraham Lincoln, a community fixture for nearly 100 years in the Englewood neighborhood, was found vandalized on Wednesday.
The bust has stood in the grass at 69th Street and Wolcott Avenue for decades. Over the years people stopped cleaning it, and it fell into disrepair.
Now the stone statue sits with dark burn marks and crumbling pieces of concrete around the face.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said that he asked his ward superintendent to retrieve it so that it can be restored.
As of Thursday, the statue was still in place, he said.
“We preserve it,” Lopez said. “It was dedicated in the 1920s. Considering the history of racism on the Southwest Side, particularly the Nazi headquarters being located in Marquette Park in the 1970s, this disgusting act sends a horrible message to West Englewood."
Lopez said he's contacted Commissioner Mark Kelly of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Lopez has requested a public art registry to help identify the statue.
"We need to identify statues, monuments and other works of art that may be offensive or needs to be addressed," he said, adding that no one reported the vandalism to the police. It's now an open investigation, he said.
He's also working on starting a GoFundMe page to raise funds to restore what he's calling an "icon in West Englewood."
The statue is located near a quiet residential street, near a bus stop and abandoned businesses.
One business, the now shuttered Lincoln Gas Station, was once owned by Phil Blomquist, who had the statue erected in 1926, city historian Tim Samuelson said. The gas station was named after the street it was on, Lincoln, which was renamed Wolcott Avenue in 1936, Samuelson said.
But there isn’t a lot of information out there on the Lincoln statue.
"No photos or definitive reason why the statue was created in the first place exist," Samuelson said, "at least not in the history books."
John McGrath, of Oak Lawn, lived on that block for nearly 28 yers before getting married. There's an emotional attachment to that corner, he said.
"My mother and father moved into our house in 1918," he said. "I'm the youngest of 10 children."
At the time the community was predominately Irish. His father and a friend from the neighborhood found the bust and built a cement block to sit it on, McGrath said.
His father died when he was six years old, he said, so he just remembers stories his mother shared. No one is certain where the bust came from, but he speculates it was left over from the World's Columbian Exposition. When he was 10, one of his brothers died while fighting in WWII.
"There was a small ceremony with a flagpole on that corner," he said. "I don't remember the exact date, just remember it being cold."
He learned about the vandalism from his daughter who saw the photos Lopez posted on Facebook after being made aware of the situation by DNAinfo Wednesday.
"It's terrible," McGrath said, adding that he would like to see it restored. He hopes that people donate to help, he said because it's going to cost thousands to repair.
He's working with an attorney who will work closely with Lopez.