Memories of the First World War still to be found a century later here on the N. Side
By Patrick Butler, Photos by Patrick Butler
World War I may be a “forgotten war” to many Americans, but the so-called “War to End All Wars” that ended nearly a century ago still has plenty of reminders here on the North Side.
These include a small cenotaph and flagpole dedicated at Lincoln and Belmont by the American Legion Legion’s Lake View Post No. 186 on Nov. 11, 1941 – less than a month before the U.S. entered another world war to the magnificent Elks National Memorial at Lakeview and Diversey, which initially honored the fraternal order’s 1,000-or-more members killed to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Later – in 1946, 1976, and 1994 – the memorial’s scope was expanded to honor members who fell in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Looking like a cross between the Jefferson Memorial in Washington and the Parthenon in Rome (erected nearly two millennia ago to pay homage to all the ancient Roman gods), the Elks Memorial rotunda is today viewed a symbol of peace. Inside, murals and statues depict the “Triumphs of Peace” on one side of the building and the “Triumphs of War” on the other.
The landmark – described by one architectural critic as “one of the most significant war memorials in the world” – was dedicated in 1923 during the fraternal order’s annual convention in Chicago.
Designed by New York architect Egerton Swarthout, the building was meant to serve as a solemn memorial and as the Elks’ international headquarters.
Dedicated on July 14, 1926, the building features statuary by three prominent sculptors of the early 20th century Adolph A. Weinman (designer of the “Walking Liberty Half Dollar” and the “Mercury” Dime), James Earle Fraser (whose works include the “Indian Head Nickel” and the iconic “End of the Trail” sculpture) and his wife, Laura Gardin Fraser. Among Laura G. Fraser’s best-known works is a statue of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson that until recently had stood in Baltimore. The building also features elaborate murals by artists Edwin Blashfield and Eugene Savage.
Blashfield painted the murals on the dome of the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Today, Savage’s best-known works include a series of Hawaiian-themed murals he painted for the Matson Navigation Company and which were reproduced on the company’s cruise ship menus. The monument was made an official Chicago landmark in October, 2003.
During the year-and-a-half the U.S. was involved in World War I, 116,518 Americans served, and 53,502 died.
The last American veteran of World War 1 was retired Army Cpl. Frank W. Buckles, who died Feb. 27, 2011.