Lincoln Statue in the making in Macomb’s City Hall
MACOMB, IL – Most people may not know but it’s a hidden fact that during both of Abraham Lincoln's stops in downtown Macomb in the 1850s, he did not have his iconic beard either time. Lincoln was apparently preparing for the Lincoln/Douglas debates during both of his Macomb stays.
WIU Associate Professor Duke Oursler and his artist friend, Marc Moulton, of Statesboro, GA are trying to rewrite history, so to speak, by placing a 15-foot statue of Lincoln's bust on the lawn of Macomb's City Hall in April. The concrete statue, which will also wear the signature stovepipe hat, will have a topiary beard that will flower at least twice a year. The finished sculpture will be 15 feet tall and eight feet wide.
The sculpture will be outdoor art through a 3D printing process using concrete. Moulton is working on the concrete portion in Georgia, while Oursler is working on the steel hat in Macomb. Together they create and trade the digital files needed for the printing process.
"We learned he didn't have a beard until he became president," said Oursler. "That transitioned to the idea that maybe we could make a sculpture where his beard would grow. There is nothing like this existing in the world. It is hard to do, but I am excited to do it."
Oursler said organizers wanted the statue to be something different that would highlight Lincoln's connection to Macomb, so they began researching his visits here.
Jock Hedblade, WIU alumnus and director of the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, began talking with Oursler as he was looking for something Lincoln-related to add to the downtown area as part of Macomb's application to be a Looking for Lincoln community. His idea was to create some kind of sculpture that could become a tourist destination.
"This unusual and creative design element with the beard will reflect Lincoln's change from the clean-shaven Senate candidate, who was photographed in Macomb, to the bearded president who saved the Union," said Hedblade. "We talked about a life-size, bronze statue, but there are a lot of those out there. We wanted something bigger and more eye-catching. We are very excited for a number of reasons – we want to draw people to Macomb and get out there and let people know we have a great Lincoln story here."
Flowers and greenery will be planted in the beard of the finished statue, which will have an internal irrigation system to keep it hydrated. The statue is expected to bloom at least twice a year, but may bloom three times the first year because it's being placed early in the spring.
Organizers are working with the owners of Boehm's Lawn and Garden Center in Rushville to choose the plants that will fill in the beard the best.
The $32,000 statue is being paid for by a grant from Macomb's Noon Rotary Club to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. The project is also being helped by Macomb's Centennial Rotary Club and Macomb Beautiful.
Macomb Mayor Mike Inman said he is proud of the unique concept for the art piece
The completed statue is scheduled to be unveiled Saturday, April 18 at Macomb City Hall.