On August 15, 1812, Fort Dearborn, which stood very near this place -
its outlines are marked in the pavement - was attacked by the
Potawatomi. A massacre ensued in which the commander of the fort,
Nathan Heald (1775-1832) and his wife narrowly escaped with their
lives; many others died. Wounded, they were ransomed to the British by
the natives - it is in the middle of the War of 1812 - and the fort
was burned to the ground.
The pictured monument is called the Heald Square Monument after this Nathan Heald.
The idea to erect a monument celebrating the nation's history and especially the ideas upon which it is founded was that of Barnet Hodes (1900-1980), a widely-known Chicago lawyer, politician and public figure - a park in Chicago is named after him. He chaired the Patriotic Society, and it was found fitting to honor the Father of the Independent Nation, George Washington, and two financiers who made the War of Independence possible: Robert Morris (1734-1806), the often-called Financier of the Revolution, and Haym Solomon (1740-1785). They flank Washington left and right respectively.
The monument was designed by the well-known Chicago sculptor and teacher at the Art Institute Lorado Taft (1860-1936), who did not live to see it completed. His work was continued by his students Leonard Crunelle (1872-1944) of French birth, Nellie Verne Walker (1874-1973) and Mary Webster (about whom I know nothing other than her name). It was completed and inaugurated in 1941.
The inscription on the pedestal derives from George Washington, who took part of it from a letter written by Moses Seixas, the warden of the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, Rhode Island, welcoming the president to that city in 1790. Apposite still for our times, it reads:
"The government of the United States /
which gives to bigotry no sanction to persecution /
no assistance requires only that they who live under /
its protection should demean themselves as good citizens /
in giving it in all occasions their effectual support".
This is one of the most important foundational ideas of the United
States as an independent nation and a land of free people.
In a sense, the backdrop of the statue is symbolic as well. It is formed by the two corncob towers of Marina City. Designed by Bertrand Goldberg in 1951, they are 179 metres tall! Marina City is meant to be "a city within a city", yet independent from it, containing within it "all facilities for living". So to say: its denizens are deemed to be independent and self-sufficient. Metaphors, of course... but still... America in the World in a nutshell, with liberty and justice for all.