I first stumbled on her in 1965, the night of my Senior Prom. The prom was at a downtown hotel. Afterward my date and I, along with two other couples, decided to go for a drive south on Lake Shore Drive.
We got to Jackson Park and turned down a side road, preparing to head back north. And there, in front of us in the darkness, illuminated by floodlights, was a towering golden statue of a Greek goddess. "What the hell is that?" we gasped.
If we'd been South Siders, we might have known. The statue is called The Republic, and is a souvenir of the 1893 World's Fair.
The 24-foot tall statue in the park is a replica. The original was nearly three times larger, a 65-foot colossa atop a 35-foot base. That version was made of plaster covered in gold leaf. Daniel Chester French, today best-known for his seated Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, was the designer.
When the Fair was over, The Republic was scrapped. A smaller plaster model was retained.
The story resumes in 1918, the centennial year of Illinois statehood. By coincidence it was also the 25th anniversary of the Fair. Someone got the idea of restoring The Republic in Jackson Park.
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