Defense - Michigan Avenue Bridge SW pylon, Chicago, IL
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member adgorn
N 41° 53.310 W 087° 37.478
16T E 448178 N 4637585
Quick Description: One of the four sculptures on the Michigan Avenue Bridge pylons, depicting important events in early Chicago history. Here, a scene from the Fort Dearborn "Massacre" in August 1812, featuring the Indian scout Captain Wells.
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 12/25/2009 7:35:19 PM
Waymark Code: WM7YXW
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member txoilgas
Views: 10

Long Description:
From the Art Inventory database:
"Relief depicts a scene from the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812. Inhabitants are being led to safety by an Indian scout after being forced to evacuate the Fort in fear of a British attack. An allegorical classical female figure floats above the more boldly carved, Beaux-Arts style figure group. The relief is one of four installed on the Michigan Avenue Bridge pylons.


Relief: approx. W. 14 ft. 9 in. D. 2 ft.

NOTE: You might not immediately appreciate why the sword-wielding, Army-attired combatant (Capt. Wells) is denoted as an “Indian” scout. Wells was white, but taken captive by Miami Indians when he was 12 and raised in their tribe. He later entered the US Army and became involved as an Indian Agent to the friendly Miami. In 1812 as an Army officer, he was sent with a group of Miami to come to the aid of Ft. Dearborn, under threat from the British and their allied Potowatami. Wells was killed in the fighting. Apparently he was actually dressed in Miami Indian fashion, with face painted black in anticipation of death, so the depiction of him in this sculpture is probably to make it easier to identify him as an Army officer. Today, Wells Street in Chicago is named for him. See the excellent wikipedia article at (visit link)

Overview of the four Michigan Avenue Bridge sculptures excerpted from “Chicago’s Public Sculpture” by Bach & Lackritz-Gray -
“Visions of a beautiful Chicago riverfront were invariably seen in the early years of the twentieth century in terms of the achievements made in Paris in the nineteenth century, and the task of accomplishing these plans quite naturally fell to men trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the French capital. It was regarded as high praise, therefore, to notice the strong resemblance between the four limestone sculptural reliefs on the pylons of the Michigan Avenue Bridge and similar sculpture on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In each case the works are set on bases that stand out from the walls behind them but that also continue the horizontal lines of the original walls. And in each sculpture group an allegorical classical female figure floats above more boldly carved figures whose naturalistic, even romantic representation is a hallmark of the Beaux-Arts tradition that inspired American sculptors in the late nineteenth century, most notably Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The two sculptors, Henry Hering (1874-1949) and James Earle Fraser (1876—1953), chosen to execute the Michigan Avenue Bridge reliefs would have pointed with pride to their training in the studio of Saint-Gaudens.

The four pylon sculptures commemorate early events in the history of Chicago, much of which occurred on this spot. The southern pylons, both with reliefs executed by Henry Hering and erected by the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund, stand near the site of Fort Dearborn. The northern pylons, with works by the prolific and talented James Earle Fraser, the gift of William Wrigley, Jr., are on land once part of the first permanent homestead in the area. Inscriptions carved into the stone bases of each piece, phrased in the vocabulary of civic boosterism, tell what is intended to be represented in each case.

Hering's "Defense", on the southwest pylon, depicts the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812. Captain William Wells, the Indian scout assigned to escort the fort’s soldiers and settlers to safety, battles a knife-wielding Indian. The massacre actually occurred two miles south of the fort; half of the group of about a hundred was killed.

Hering’s "Regeneration", on the southeast pylon, shows workers rebuilding Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871, which destroyed the central city. Almost $40 million worth of new buildings were erected in the first year after the fire.

Fraser’s "The Pioneers", on the northwest pylon, portrays fur trader John Kinzie as the representative of the early settlers of the Chicago area. In fact, in 1804 Kinzie purchased property on this site that had been developed into a profitable business by John Baptist Point du Sable.

Fraser’s “The Discoverers", on the northeast pylon, honors the French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, who determined in 1678 that Chicago was the site of the passage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system, and René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle, and his lieutenant, Henri de Tonti, who explored the entire Mississippi River area between 1679 and 1682. Curiously, Marquette, who was a Jesuit priest, is depicted in the robes of a Franciscan monk. The profile of the kneeling Indian in the foreground resembles the one on the Indian head and buffalo nickel of 1913, which Fraser designed.

Both sculptors had strong associations with Chicago. Henry Hering provided a series of classical figures for the interior and reliefs for the exterior of the Field Museum of Natural History, a pediment for the Civic Opera House (see my waymark (visit link) , and seated allegorical figures for Union Station. James Earle Fraser was born in Winona, Minnesota, and after a boyhood on the Dakota frontier, grew up in Chicago, where he was assistant to Richard Bock, whose sculpture is often associated with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. A model of an exhausted Indian slumped on his tired pony, entitled The End of the Trail, made in 1894 after Fraser had seen the Indian sculpture at the Columbian Exposition, not only attracted Saint-Gaudens’s attention but also by the time of Fraser ‘s death was regarded as the best known sculpture in America. Fraser’s statue of Alexander Hamilton for the Department of the Treasury in Washington in 1923 is regarded as one of the best works of those practicing in the Saint-Gaudens.”

There are numerous additional Nearest Waymarks worth visiting, many pertaining to the themes depicted in the bridge reliefs.

Additional information about the historic Michigan Avenue Bridge follows:
From (visit link)
(FYI The Bridgehouse Museum is located inside the SW pylon.)
In the 1909 Plan of Chicago, architect Daniel Burnham envisioned the Michigan Avenue Bridge as a monumental gateway between Chicago’s north and south sides. This grand dream was realized in 1920, when the bridge opened to much fanfare. Since then, the bridge has been lifting out of the way of passing boats in a spectacle of grace in engineering. The gears, driven by a 108-horsepower motor, can lift the 4,200-ton bridge out of the way of passing boats in as little as 30 seconds.

From (visit link)
Connecting the downtown Loop to the Magnificent Mile, this is essentially the "Main Street Bridge" of Chicago, since it carries a busy roadway including as many as 30,000 pedestrians daily, and has been decorated to give it the feel of a gateway bridge. It the is most well-known of the Chicago bascule bridges. The design of the trusses and the bridge itself is comparable to other bridges in the city, except that this bridge is one of the less common double-deck bridges in the city. The decorations such as the bridge-tender towers on this bridge, and the plaques on the bridge also set this aside from other Chicago bridges. The city has furthered this bridge's unique appearance by flying various flags on the bridge as well.

From (visit link)
Architect: Edward Bennett and Hugh Young; Thomas Pihlfeldt and Hugh Young, engineers.
The completion of the bridge, followed by the Wacker Drive esplanade (1926) and the monumental sculptures (1928), provided an impressive gateway to North Michigan Avenue and led to its development as one of the city's premier thoroughfares.

See (visit link)
for instructions on how to build your own!
An important part of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago, the opening of this bridge in 1920 extended Michigan Avenue northward across the Chicago River and allowed the development of the elegant shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile with the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower just to the north. The lower deck of the trunnion bascule bridge separates freight traffic on Lower Michigan from surface traffic above. Chicago has more movable bridges than any other city in the world.”
TITLE: Defense

ARTIST(S): Hering, Henry, 1874-1949, sculptor.

DATE: Dec. 5, 1925. Installed 1928.

MEDIUM: Relief: limestone.


Direct Link to the Individual Listing in the Smithsonian Art Inventory: [Web Link]

SW bridge pylon at the NW corner of Michigan Avenue & Wacker Dr. Chicago, IL


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