Jackson Park's The Republic- Chicago Landmark 2003

Back to Jackson Park home. Historic Jackson Park. Jackson Park Timeline. History and Preservation Home . Historic Preservation in Depth (/preservation in parks). Landmark designation process and criteria. Traffic Circle proposal (Archive). Columbian Exposition.

Proposal for yield-only traffic roundabout at Golden Lady in JPAC/Jackson home.

Archive: 2004 CDOT restored the granite curb around the circle damaged during construction. $43,000 extra.

In the 2018 South Lakefront Plan process and as passedy , suggested is changing the "circle" to a T intersection of Richards Dr. at Hayes east of the lady, with or without an underpass of Hayes that would also ease access between the golf driving range and the golf course.

By Gary Ossewaarde- Jackson Park and HPKCC/hydepark.org

In this page:




Statue of the Republic replica. George Rumsey  early 2000's?
Republic replica today

Republic replica today in its island of flowers

Landmark designation voted by Landmarks Commission for The Republic (Golden Lady), replica of the Statue of The Republic at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. On April 3, 2003, the final recommendation was approved by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks and sent to the Chicago City Commission. JPAC has strongly supported landmark designation by the city and also state and federal agencies. Final designation by City Council: June 5, 2003.

Mayor Daley said: "The impact of the Fair was profound and central to Chicago's heritage... it is critical we protect this lasting symbol of our great city." Alderman Hairston said: "The Golden Lady is an important reminder of from whence we came as a city."



Story of The Republic

The Republic, aka Golden Lady. This 24-foot high, c1/3 size gold leaf on bronze replica of the 65-foot high gold leaf on plaster statue, which stood in the central focus Grand Basin gateway Court of Honor (southwest of the present Beach House at 63rd/Hayes Drive) at the Worlds' Columbian Exposition of 1893. This replica stands in the Hayes-Richards Circle (6300 S.), site of the exposition's Administration Building, at the opposite side of the Grand Basin site from where the original stood. The original and replica were by Daniel Chester French. French and architect Henry Bacon produced the 24 foot replica and pedestal, which were dedicated May 11, 1918 to honor both the 25th anniversary of the Exposition and the 100th birthday of the entry of the State of Illinois into the Union.

The Fair galvanized the nation's attention at a key time in the country's coming of age, and The Republic honored the nation that only a few years before experienced the Civil War, in which so many gave the "last full measure of devotion" to save the Union. That War forged a new nation dedicated to popular government (res publica). Many Chicagoans and Illinoisans fought in that war, and President Lincoln came from Illinois. The Fair was a key event in the coming of age of Chicago, "city of the century"; the Fair is represented by one of the four stars on the Chicago flag. The monumental Republic statue was much remarked upon. (Naturally, many referred to it as the "Big Mary".) The original was of plaster staff over a metal frame. French was a key classical-style sculptor, and Beaux-Arts classical was the dominant style used in the Fair. At a total height including base of over 100 feet, The Republic must have been impressive indeed, towering above all the buildings and the framing colonnade, and clearly was in part intended to be Chicago's answer New York's Statue of Liberty, as the Ferris Wheel was to Liberty as well as the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Original sketch and guidance for the original, and selection of French, were by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who, with the design committee, drew upon Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's 151 foot high Statue of Liberty. French conceived of Republic as embodying greatness, so needing straight, severe lines and archaic austerity to the smallest fold of drapery. The eye must be led up through the thrust arms to the head and calm, serious face. French's daughter recalled that "It was quite different from anything that [French] had done and he foresaw that there would be a division of opinion about it....[H]e would rather have it cordially hated than endured. 'We must get the essentials right,' he said. 'The reason a silhouette is a good likeness is because the essentials are right, even though all the details are left out.' "

The statue was modeled in clay then cast in plaster in the Forestry building--which took months. It was possibly the largest statue made in America to that time. With assistants Henry Lukeman and Andrew O'Connor, he enlarged the original five times via cutting and "pointing off" with nails into the skeleton. Sections were strengthened at the joints by wrapping with jute fiber dipped in thin mortar. Then layer on layer were covered with staff. French applied a fine, white finishing coat. In the Basin, the sections were hoisted into place one on top of the other on the 30-foot pedestal. An interior framework of iron was added as well as an iron stairway for the electrician for the circle of lights around the hair. Then gold leaf was applied everywhere except head and arms. [The 1918 was entirely gilded. ] French recalled "and lo! an American goddess stood forth, with golden hair, clothed in shimmering draperies and by night a halo of stars around her head."

Lorado Taft recalled, "That crowning feature of the Fair was more than a big feature: it wa a great one... it was not Mr. French's problem to make a merely pretty thing.... His the task to represent something more enduring than the exposition, and to embody it in a form which should enter into the architectural scheme of the classic spirit. It was to be seen from a distance, in connection with those buildings; it must be a monument as well as a statue..."

The 1918 replica was funded from the last $48,000 left to the fair's foundation when it disbanded in 1915, turned over to the Ferguson Monument Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago to create a statue commemorating the Columbian Exposition. (The Ferguson Fund, established in 1905, has undertaken much of the open air sculpture in Chicago and its parks, most recently restoration of Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time.) Selection of French and a reproduction of The Republic as the commission was the fund's second commission after Taft's Fountain of the Great Lakes at the Art Institute. The 1918 version was cast from a 12-foot plaster model of the original. The model was tediously scaled up using a grid. Delays in bronze casting (due to World War I?) held up completion until February 1918 although it was signed in 1916. It arrived at Englewood train station. Costs of $50,000 were: $10,000 for bronze casting, $1,200 for gilding by Gorham Company, $20,000 for the granite pedestal, and the rest for transport and commission.

The 10-foot high pedestal was designed by Henry Bacon of New York using pink Stony Creek granite "rubbed" to a sheen. It features classical festoons and fasces.

Inscriptions: "The Republic--to commemorate the World's Columbian Exposition MDCCCXCIII", "The World's Columbian Exposition authorized by act of Congress and generously participated in by the nations of the Earth was held here in 1893 to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America. On this site stood the Administration Building". The pedestal has a low bench around it and sits on an octagonal raised terrace.

The Republic shows a woman with a classical breastplate and long flowing robe, with arms outstretched above head--the right hand holding a globe with an eagle perched or hovering atop, the other a staff. Globe and eagle were the Fair's emblem, but their arrangement was French's. The original had the left hand holding a lance decorated with laurel leaves and a Phrygian Cap representing the French Revolution. Perhaps because the mid/late 1910's was a time of reaction and fear of communism, anarchism and the Bolsheviks, a staff with a laurel wreath was used. The statue has been given various interpretations--some said it symbolized "both the republic of the United States, a single united political entity, and our republican form of government", others said it expressed the strength of the nation after the Civil War and its role as a beacon for republican and democratic aspirations. Less likely, it would seem to this writer, is that it stood for assimilation of immigrants--at least the 1893 original.

French and Bacon went on to design the Lincoln Memorial, dedicated in 1922, four years after dedication of the Republic replica.

In the 1980's, renowned sculpture restorationist Andrzej Dajnowski led a team that restored and re gilded The Republic.


The journey to landmark designation

At its December 5 2003 meeting, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted the Statue preliminary protection (nomination for landmark status). JPAC has a copy of the description and case for landmark status presented to the Council. The presentation document found that the Golden Lady meets the following criteria for Chicago landmark designation:

It was also deemed to meet the Integrity Criteria. The Significant Historical and Architectural Features are: the statue, pedestal and base in their entirety.

JPAC voted its enthusiastic support for designation at its December 2002 meeting. The Commission voted final recommendation April 3 2003 following a visual presentation and favorable testimony, including by the JPAC representative. City Council Committee on Landmarks consideration was followed by a favorable final City Council vote June 5.


The designation documents

October 7, 2003

David Doig, General Superintendent
Chicago Park District.....

Re: Chicago Landmark Designation of the Statue of the Republic, located in Jackson Park at the intersection of Hayes and Richards Drs.

Dear David:

As you know, the Statue of The Republic was designated a Chicago Landmark by ordinance of the City Council on June 4, 2003. A certified copy of the designation ordinance is enclosed.

The Commission would like to assure you that its staff is always available to assist you.

...Brian Goeken
Deputy Commissioner

Landmarks Division

encl... cc: Alderman Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward, Patricia A. Woodworth, The Art Institute of Chicago, Robert Megquier, Chicago Park District, Julia Bachrach, Chicago Park District, Nancy Hays, Jackson Park Advisory Council, Judy Minor-Jackson, Department of Planning and Development=

James J Laski, City Clerk- City Clerk's Office - City of Chicago

WHEREAS, Pursuant to the procedure set forth in the Municipal Code of Chicago (the "Municipal Code") SS 2-120-130 through -690, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (the "Commission") has determined that the Statue of the Republic, located in Jackson Park at the intersection of Hayes and Richards Drives (hereinafter, the "Statue"), as more precisely described in Exhibits A and B attached hereto and incorporated herein, meets four (4) criteria for landmark designation as set forth in SS 2-130-620 (1), (3), (4), and (5) of the Municipal Code; and

WHEREAS, The Statue commemorates the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 in Chicago's Jackson Park, the influence of which was profound and long lasting, not only did it demonstrate to the world American industry and innovation, it also illustrated the cultural, artistic and architectural maturity of the natioN, region, and the city of Chicago; and

WHEREAS, As a memorial to the World's Columbian Exposition, the statue commemorates what was arguably the single-most important event in American architectural history due to its impact on american architecture, and it was an event so central to Chicago's heritage that it was memorialized as one (1) of the four (4) stars on the Chicago flag; and

WHERAS, The Stature displays the talents of two (2) nationally important American designers, sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon, who in collaboration went on the complete the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, The Statue is one of the most important works (and one uniquely associated with Chicago) of Daniel Chester French, one of America's most celebrated and significant sculptors; and

WHEREAS, The Statue, which is affectionately known as the "Golden Lady" has been an established visual feature of Jackson Park since its completion in 1918 and remains today one of the most prominent features of the park and one of the most familiar pieces of public sculpture in the City of Chicago; and

WHEREAS, The Commission has further determined that the Statue satisfies the historic integrity requirement set forth in SS 2-120-630 of the Uncial Code in that it retains its historic location, overall design and details; and

WHEREAS, Pursuant to SS 2-120-690 of the Municipal Code, on April 3, 2003, the Commission adopted a resolution recommending to the City Council of the City of Chicago (the "City Council") that the Statue of The Republic be designated as a Chicago landmark; now, therefore,

Be it Ordained by the City Council of the City of Chicago:

SECTION 1. The above recitals are expressly incorporated in and made a part of this ordinance as though fully set forth herein.

SECTION 2. The Statue of The Republic is hereby designated as a Chicago landmark in accordance with SS 2-120-700 of the Municipal Code.

SECTION 3. The significant historical and architectural features of the Statue, for the purposes of ss 2-120-740 of the Municipal Code, are the statue, pedestal and base in their entirety.

SECTION 4. The Commission is hereby directed to create a suitable plaque appropriately identifying said landmark and to affix the plaque on or near the property designated as a Chicago landmark in accordance with the provisions of SS 2-120-700 of the Municipal Code.

SECTION 5. The Commission is directed to comply with the provisions of SS 2-120-720 of the Municipal Code, regarding notification of said designation.

SECTION 6. This ordinance shall take effect from and after the date of its passage.

[Exhibit "B" unavailable] Exhibit "A" referred to in this ordinance reads as follows:

Exhibit "A"

Statue Of The Republic Property Description [125' on each side southeast of a point 1,715 east and 335 south of Stony and 63rd]

Certification from City Clerk James Laski that the City Council passed the ordinance 48-0 and the Mayor filed no objection. Sealed August 7, 2003.


Historic depictions

Republic Replica at the time of dedication , May, 1918

Republic replica at dedication 1918Repubic at dedication with ladder

Republic old detail upper torso, head, emblems Republic detaiils-garlands on base
Bust of the original Republic 1893 durding scale-up Daniel Chester French bust by his daughter
Original Republic in Court of Honor Original Republic in Court of Honor

Above right: Daniel Chester French (bust by his daughter). Above left: French with the 1893 colossal plaster head of The Republic. Below: as assembled in the Court of Honor, which ran from the Administration bldg., about where the replica stands, east northeast to the Lake near the later (1919) 63rd Beach House.


Jackson Park's "Golden Lady", then and now

Hyde Park Herald, May 28, 2003. By Edward Campbell

Historical Hyde Park.

The Golden Lady is a replica of "The Republic" statue, which was a throwaway as were most of the classic Greek and Roman inspired buildings in the World Columbian Exposition of 1893. Constructed of "staff," a mixture of plaster, cement and jute fiber, and applied as stucco to wood and iron framing, the structures were designed to last only for the life of the Fair. An exception was the Palace of Fine Arts, now the Museum of Science and Industry, made of permanent materials because of the priceless objects of art displayed there. The present cladding of the building in limestone was done in in the 1930's.

The sculptor Daniel Chester French was selected by Daniel Burnham, Director of works of the Fair, upon recommendation of Augustus St. Gladdens, then a leading American sculptor. French began work on the figure in his studio in New York City on a model in plaster three feet high. There is no evidence that a human being inspired this image, despite many claims that somebody's great-aunt or grandmother was his model. French speaks of seeking to express "the archaic" as appropriate for its colossal size and setting in the monumental Court of Honor. He began the work in the fall of 1891 in New York but took it to Paris to continue its development as he supervised the casting in bronze of his Milmore Memorial, which was shown to great acclaim at the Fair.

The finished small model of "The Republic" was brought to Chicago in February 1892. This plaster maquette was expanded to a figure 13 feet high. That statue was then cut into five sections which in turn served as models for the completed 65 foot high "Columbia," renamed "The Republic." Each section was enlarged five times . On skeletons of wood wrapped with jute fiber and binding of strong ropes, "staff" was applied. The assembled sections were coated with gold leaf except for the head, neck and arms, which were painted ivory. She wore a diadem of electric lights.

The figure in classical drapery carried symbolic ornaments: a laurel wreath on the head, a shield with eagle outstretched, in her right hand, a globe with an eagle hovering over, in her left hand, a lance crowned by a Phrygian cap--a sign of the French revolution. The total intent was to express the republic of the United States and its form of government. "The Republic" was the focal element in the Court of Honor, facing west over a broad lagoon toward the Administration Building, flanked on the South by Agriculture and on the North by Manufactures and Liberal Arts with the Peristyle and its Quadiga on the East. Lorado Taft, labeling "The Republic" "the crown feature of the Fair" commented that "such a union of personality with sculptural generalization is rare."

A large part of the exposition burned in January 1894. Although "The Republic" escaped that conflagration, it too was doomed for extinction. It passed away in flames with the rising sun of an August morning in 1896. French was glad that it was gone. He hated to think of it tumbling into disrepair and slow but inevitable dissolution.

In 1926 the funds remaining from the Exposition were given to the Art Institute for the purpose of erecting a replica of the statue of "The Republic" on the site of the Administration Building in Jackson Park. This was accomplished with the cooperation of the Ferguson Fund. French was commissioned to redesign and erect the memorial. A figure 24 feet high in bronze was created and mounted on a base designed by Henry Bacon who later designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The replica deviated in two respects from the original--its orientation, it faced east instead of west, and in lieu of the Phrygian cap a placard proclaiming liberty with a wreath and a torch on the staff held by the left hand. It was dedicated in 1918.

The setting for the facsimile among trees and informal parkland is judged to be unflattering. Lacking the majestic court and classic buildings--the qualities that gave it beauty, focus and stateliness, it now seems out of place, an anachronism, an essence lost.

Addendum: letter by Ed Campbell to the Herald, July 16, 2003

In my article about the original sculpture of The Republic I stated that there was no evidence that the sculptor Daniel Chester French used a human model for his inspiration. That proved to be in error. Thanks to Hyde Parker Houston Stokes, evidence has been provided to prove that indeed a young woman in the garb of The Republic did pose for French. Edith Minturn was her name. She later became the wife of Isaac Newton Stokes, a brother of Houston Stokes' grandfather. The Stokes family lived in Lennox, Massachusetts (where Houston grew up) near the Stockbridge country house and studio of Daniel French. Isaac Newton and Edith Minturn Stokes gained immortality in 1897 in a double portrait painted by John Singer Sargent, now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This article is one of a series presented monthly through a collaboration of the Herald and the Hyde Park Historical Society. Edward Campbell is a former member of the Society's Board. He is currently working on a monograph on Daniel Chester French that will be published by the Society later this year. The Hyde Park Historical Society maintains a museum and library at 5529 S. Lake Park Ave. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 288-1242.

JPAC Newsletter Editor's note:

Campbell rightly calls attention to a kind of lack of authenticity and contextual integrity in the replica of The Republic set up in 1918 at the Hayes-Richards circle. It differs significantly, including in a stripping down of revolutionary iconography, and is only one-third-size. It is out of both its original context and the context of its present part of the park. (Maybe by the Columbia Basin would have been better?). And it seems to attempt to make static and permanent an icon made for and to last a moment, a celebration of a 400- year-past event and a moment in the United States and Chicago. Yet it does celebrate the enduring republic and its promise and does light up and give glory and gravitas to the center of the park. Drivers and golfers, fishermen and soccer players and birders look up for a moment at this beacon in the crossroads and may remember some of our common purposes and responsibilities that bring us together. JPAC strongly supported landmark status for The Republic, which was granted in 2003. In 2004 the granite curbing around the statue was restored. In mid-2004, JPAC braced for the next question--making a traffic improvement that wouldn't isolate the statue island. In the 2018 South Framework Plan and CDOT planning for road changes for the Obama Presidential Center and a possible renovated golf course, a T-intersection and underpasse for Hayes Drive proposed a solution that would make the statue safely accessible. With funding available, provided the Obama Center survive federal reviews and challenges, this could be implimented 20019-20.