In honor of Veterans Day, Landmarks Illinois has published its new online database of historic World War I monuments and memorials in Illinois. The Landmarks Illinois WWI Monuments of Illinois Database currently contains information on 311 monuments and memorials such as doughboy statues, plaques, sculptures and public spaces dedicated to honoring those who served in the Great War. Monuments included in the database are located in 158 different Illinois communities.
“We are proud to bring attention to the monuments that honor our fellow Illinoisans who fought or served in the First World War,” said Bonnie McDonald, President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois. “Many of these memorials are now 100 years old or more. These historical markers, and those they honor, deserve to be recognized and celebrated.”
The unique database is the result of a years-long survey of existing WWI monuments throughout the state, made possible through generous financial support from the Pritzker Military Foundation. In 2017, in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into WWI, Landmarks Illinois launched the statewide survey to better learn about the remaining WWI monuments in Illinois. In partnership with Landmarks Illinois Director of Reinvestment Suzanne Germann, former Landmarks Illinois Regional Advisor, the late Steve Thompson of Mattoon, and preservation consultant Matt Seymour, conducted the comprehensive survey of WWI monuments throughout Illinois.
“This unique program has shined a light on the large number of remaining memorials throughout Illinois dedicated to the Great War,” said Suzanne Germann, Director of Reinvestment for Landmarks Illinois. “We are grateful to all those who helped with the extensive survey and shared information on memorials in their communities. We hope this new database sparks curiosity and inspires people to preserve the WWI memorials in their neighborhoods so they can stand for another 100 years and more.”
In conjunction with the survey, Landmarks Illinois created and carried out a WWI Monument Preservation Grant Program during 2017 and 2018 to provide financial support to communities wanting to preserve their WWI monuments and recover their dedication-era quality and appearance. The Pritzker Military Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to Landmarks Illinois for the creation of the WWI monument database, survey and grant program. Nearly $75,000 of the funding went toward the WWI Monument Preservation Grant Program, which successfully helped preserve 13 aging WWI monuments and memorials in the state.
“Landmarks Illinois is the ‘go to’ organization in the state of Illinois to preserve historic buildings,” said Col. Jennifer Pritzker, Founder of the Pritzker Military Foundation. “This project is dear to me because both of my grandfathers served in WWI, and I personally find it inspiring to bring awareness to these monuments. The purpose is not to glorify war, rather to remember how costly and destructive they are and why we should make every effort to avoid them.”
Among the WWI memorials documented in the Landmarks Illinois WWI Monuments of Illinois Database is the Goldstar Memorial in Riverside’s Guthrie Park, which consists of a concrete plaza with a flagpole in the center and multiple stone monuments around the edge, each with a plaque. Three of these monuments recognize a specific community member killed during WWI. The fourth monument honors all of those from the community who gave their lives in the War.
The Riverside memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1921. Landmarks Illinois awarded the Village of Riverside $5,000 in 2018 through the WWI Monument Preservation Grant Program to aid restoration efforts at the village-owned site. New foundations for the stones were created, landscaping was updated and the flag pole was restored. The restoration of the monument has been a joint effort through the village and American Legion Post #488 of Riverside.
“Memorials like the Gold Star Memorial in Guthrie Park are like postcards to the future,” said Joseph Baar Topinka, Commander, American Legion Post #488. “They must be preserved and revered in the present. If they are not, the future will not have them from which to learn from the past. What a loss that would be to communities like Riverside, Illinois, that are steeped in history.”
If you know of a monument or marker in your community that is not already in the database, or if you have additional information on, or photos of, an existing monument in the database, please contact Landmarks Illinois Director of Reinvestment Suzanne Germann at [email protected]. Explore the Landmarks Illinois WWI Monuments of Illinois Database here.
About Landmarks Illinois
We are People Saving Places for People. Landmarks Illinois, now celebrating its 50th Anniversary, is a membership-based nonprofit organization serving the people of Illinois. We inspire and empower stakeholders to save places that matter to them by providing free guidance, practical and financial resources and access to strategic partnerships. For more information, visit www.Landmarks.org.