Renie Gile proposes Elmer Ellsworth statue

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Col Elmer Ellsworth_Library of Congress image

Welcome to the first blog post in the just-launched website for the Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle project.

Through this blog, we – the three chairs of Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle committee – want to keep you informed about the ambitious project that Churchill’s Grove Neighborhood Association is spearheading to revitalize an intersection in our community that technically is a veterans’ memorial but which is hard to identify as anything more than a traffic circle.

Renie Gile headshot
Renie Gile

Announcements about the Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle project for the roundabout at North Main and Auburn streets went out Sunday, March 3, 2019 on both NextDoor and Facebook. Community response to our grassroots effort to make this historic crossroads a fitting tribute for local veterans was positive and immediate.

For our initial goal of weeding, replanting and helping maintain the grounds, volunteers already are signing up for Spruce-Up Day on May 11, 2019.

For the longer term goal of organizing and fundraising to replace the statue of the Civil War soldier that no longer is at the roundabout, Churchill’s Grove resident Renie Gile, a former president of the Main and Auburn Business District (now North End Commons), started the conversation by sending this email:

 

Col Elmer Ellsworth_Library of Congress image
Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth / Library of Congress image

The adjacent cemetery [Greenwood] is the site of graves of Civil War soldiers. Churchill’s Grove is the site of Camp Fuller, the Civil War camp established by President Lincoln.

Many of the streets are named after Civil War officers:

  • Sherman
  • Sheridan
  • Logan
  • Ellsworth

as well as references to the camp:

  • Post
  • Camp
  • National

Instead of another generic Civil War soldier, I would love to see a statue of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, the first officer killed in the Civil War. He was like a son to Abraham Lincoln and engaged to Carrie Spafford, the daughter of one of Rockford’s first banking families.

He was killed while taking the Confederate flag off a hotel across the Potomac from the White House. He didn’t want President Lincoln to look out on that flag.

I am proposing a bronze statue: one of Ellsworth in his famous Zouave uniform, which he designed.

If all neighborhoods surrounding the roundabout spread the word, we can once again have our soldier standing watch over our neighborhoods.

Renie, who has an art background, is researching sculptors of such statues, the lead time for a sculpture like this, and the cost for it.

We are having this discussion because the Civil War statue that had been at the northeastern corner of North Main and Auburn for years was moved in 2014 (a year after the roundabout was built) to Memorial Hall in downtown Rockford.

Oct 2017 Google street view of NE edge of Main and Auburn roundabout
In October 2017, when this Google street view of the North Main and Auburn street intersection was taken, the base of the statue was empty – as it had been for almost four years, and may again be in June 2020 / Google Maps

For almost four years, the base of that statue – which has remained at the roundabout and is inscribed with “A Timeless Tribute to Every Soldier” – sat empty. By October 2017, when this street view of the intersection was taken by Google, weeds were filling in where the statue had been.

The sculpture that is now on the  base was put there in June 2018 and is part of a public art display that the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has on loan for two years. This means that come June 2020, the “Timeless Tribute to Every Soldier” base will again be bare.

Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle do not want this base to be bare for long.

So please share your thoughts about Renie’s proposal in the Comments section below:

  • Had you heard of the colonel?
  • Would you, too, like to see a statue of Col. Ellsworth standing at the roundabout?
  • Would you like to see a statue of another Civil War soldier there?
  • Do you know of a sculptor you can refer Renie to?

Let’s keep this conversation going.

 

by Helen Karakoudas Redfern | Co-chair, Friends of Veterans Memorial Circle

Helen Karakoudas Redfern is working on the Beautify Veterans Memorial Circle project with Rick Westlake, chair and manager of volunteer recruitment and fundraising, and with Ernie Redfern, co-chair and project planning supervisor. Helen is in charge of promotion. You can reach her at helen@rockfordveteranscircle.org.

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