Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
The Soldier’s Monument – A Civil War Memorial
15 N. Galena Ave., Freeport
On the southwest corner of the courthouse lawn, an 83-foot-high monument stands as a solemn reminder of the ultimate sacrifice.
Designed by Gen. Smith D. Atkins and built in 1871, the monument is adorned with a 13-foot statue of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, at its summit. She holds a large flag in one hand and a symbolic olive branch in the other.
Below Victoria, the monument is constructed of squared limestone blocks from Joliet, Ill. The lower base of the monument once featured white marble panels etched with the names of Stephenson County’s fallen heroes from the Civil War. In 1924, the marble panels were reversed and used as mounts for bronze plaques that now include names of everyone from Stephenson County who served in the Civil War.
At the base, life-sized bronze soldiers represent the Union military’s four branches: Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Navy. These soldiers were added in 1924 to replace the original soldiers, who were crafted by the Chicago Terra Cotta Co.
The monument’s middle section features four granite plaques. The one facing Stephenson Street features a dedication while the other three bear the names of 25 battles in which Stephenson County men fought, including Fort Donelson, Chickamauga and Kenesaw Mountain.
10 S. High St., Janesville, (608) 590-0030, 10southvenue.com
In the mid-1800s, the corner of High and Dodge streets was home to Janesville Academy, a Greek Revival stone building that eventually became Janesville’s first public high school. That structure was demolished in 1871 to make room for a Second Empire-style building constructed in 1876. It housed an elementary school until 1921.
The Vocational School took residence until 1926, when it became home to the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Tank Company, which had formed in 1920. After a fire destroyed the upper portion of the old school in 1929, plans were made for a new Armory, which opened in 1931.
Just prior to the outbreak of World War II, Wisconsin’s 32nd Tank Company merged with three other units to form Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion. They were among the first units deployed to the Pacific when they reached the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines on Jan. 7, 1942.
After four months, the unit faced dwindling supplies and a lack of air support when they surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army and were forced into what became the Bataan Death March.
The Wisconsin National Guard continued to operate within the Armory into the 1960s, until plans to relocate to a new facility began. The old Armory became home to the Rock County Historical Society until it was transformed in 2005 into a dinner theater and restaurant. It currently serves as a wedding venue.
Northern Illinois University, corner of Castle Drive and College Avenue, DeKalb, niu.edu
While she may appear to be a mere statue, this grotesque’s history is rich with all of the legend and lore you’d expect from an enduring campus icon.
Designed by Altgeld Hall architect Charles Brush, this statue was one of 11 grotesques adorning the roof of the university’s first building. According to the university’s archival material, the statue was struck by lightning in 1900 during the first commencement ceremony.
When lightning struck the statue again on Oct. 14, 1966, fragments of its pedestal fell to the ground. The grotesque was removed as a safety precaution and kept in storage until 1973, when it was placed in its current home, in a lush garden between Altgeld and Still halls.
Since then, students have adorned the statue for holidays and events. In 1996, it was officially named “Olive Goyle,” thanks to a naming contest organized by NIU Art Museum curator Jo Burke.
The statue has endured a handful of misadventures over the years, including a beheading prank in 2001, after which the Northern Star student newspaper organized a re-naming contest to encourage the return of the statue’s head. The head eventually showed up and the newspaper redubbed the statue Homer J. Goyle. Even so, the plaque in NIU’s garden still reads “Olive Goyle: Altgeld Hall’s Most Famous Grotesque.”