Monumental Moments in Southwest Illinois
Presidents, activists, memorials and icons- from gardens to gravesites- visit these 12 monuments and step into history!
Southwest Illinois’ past brims with historical events and people.
Monuments to southwest Illinois’ past pepper the landscape, testament to those who sacrificed, influenced, and created the heart of America.
The area was influenced by the Civil War and abolitionists. Movements
for both civil and labor rights changed the industrial landscape and
important political debates still quoted today were held along the banks
of the Mississippi.
The region was the point of departure for the Lewis and Clark expedition and home to heroes, villains and revolutionaries. Take a look through these historic cities and see if you can find their monuments to the past.
• Lincoln-Douglas Debate Statues- 100 Market St, Alton, IL 62002-
Dedicated to the October, 15, 1858 Lincoln/Douglas debate, held on the site- The two political adversaries debated for hours while the City of Alton watched. Loyalty to both men was very split in the area and both politicians had many friends in the city. It was on this spot that Lincoln delivered the famous “a house divided against itself cannot stand” speech.
• Lovejoy Monument- 1299 E 5th St, Alton, IL 62002
Dedicated to abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy who ran a progressive newspaper and was a strong advocate for civil rights in the early 1800’s. His printing press was destroyed three times by angry mobs and when the fourth press arrived from Ohio in 1837, Lovejoy and other abolitionists confronted a pro-slavery mob and a riot ensued. Lovejoy was shot dead and his fourth press was thrown into the Mississippi River.
A monument was built in 1897 in his honor and to honor all those who spoke out for civil rights. The bench at the monument’s base is called “The Whispering Wall” and represents the Underground Railroad and secrecy during the abolitionist movement- if one visitor whispers in the corner of the bench, another can hear them on the opposite side. Lovejoy’s grave is located in the hilltop cemetery behind the monument which is a beautiful place to take a stroll in the autumn months and reflect.
• Confederate Cemetery Monument- 635 Rozier St, Alton, IL 62002
Located in the North Alton Confederate Cemetery, a 58 foot tall granite obelisk was erected to honor confederate soldiers who passed away during the smallpox outbreak of 1863 in the Union Prison in Alton.
Due to the influx of sudden illness, many confederate soldiers and their union guards were either poorly identified or not identified at all before their burial and the monument was created in 1908 as a mass marker. The Commission for Marking Graves of Confederate Dead undertook a project to re-identify each grave in the early 1900s, but was unsuccessful. The monolith lists 1,354 names of confederates who died in the prison including those buried onsite and those who were buried on Smallpox Island.
• Robert Wadlow Statue- 2810 College Ave, Alton, IL 62002
Born in 1918, Robert Wadlow still holds the Guinness World Records title for tallest man in the world at 8’11”. A statue in memory of Wadlow is located in the park near the old Shurtleff college campus, now the Southern Illinois University Dental School. The bronze of Wadlow was sculpted and created in 1985 by local Ned Giberson. A large bronze replica of one of Wadlow’s armchairs is also at the site.
The Alton Museum of History and Art, across the street from Wadlow’s statue, has an entire room dedicated to him, including one of his school desks, his graduation gown, and his large grade-school ring.
• Miles Davis Statue- 117 W 3rd St, Alton, IL 62002
Miles Davis, born in Alton in 1926, was a major composer, musician, and bandleader who heavily influenced the evolution of jazz music. He famously played the trumpet, organ, piano, flugelhorn, and cornet. In 2006 Davis was entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of only 3 statues of him in the world is on 3rd Street in Alton by artist Preston Jackson.
• Lewis and Clark Community College- Monticello Sculpture Gardens- 5800 Godfrey Rd, Godfrey, IL
Located on the 215-acre Godfrey campus, Monticello Sculpture Gardens is home to over a dozen large sculptures, lily ponds, fountains, manicured gardens, and historic limestone buildings. Explore the beautiful property on your own or on a free tour.
The college offers guided tours Monday- Friday 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. of the gardens and informs visitors of the college’s history, significance of the sculptures, and environmental advocacy in which the college is involved. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a tour or call (618) 468-3140 for information.
• Wellspring- Jay Hoffman Center, 600 Troy Rd, Edwardsville, IL located on the N.O. Nelson Campus- “Wellspring” was the third piece of art commissioned by the Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation in 2010. It is the only sculpture on N.O. Nelson’s Campus designated under the Monticello Sculpture Gardens affiliated with Lewis and Clark Community College’s campus.
• Madison County Centennial Monument- 6368 Center Grove Rd, Edwardsville, IL
Restored and rededicated on September, 15, 2012, the Madison County centennial monument was a gift from the State of Illinois by Chicago sculptor Charles Mulligan to Madison County on its 100th anniversary in 1912.
The white marble monument is currently in City Park. The monument includes faces of muses on each side: “Plenty” on the south side, “Virtue” on the east side, “Justice” on the north side and “Wisdom” on the west side. Surrounding the four muses is a globe representing Earth and several American shields and eagles.
• Madison County Courthouse Statue- 155 N Main St, Edwardsville, IL Statue of former President James Madison- Madison County’s namesake- the statue was created in 1976 by chairman of the Department of Art and Design at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, David Huntley, and presented to the county by SIUE President Andrew Kochman.
• Lincoln Statue with a Sore Back- 1 Courthouse Square, Hillsboro, IL- The bronze sculpture in downtown Hillsboro of Lincoln was designed by sculptor John McClarey, depicts President Abraham Lincoln with a sore back and suitcase. Lincoln regularly visited the town of Hillsboro by train or buggy- a method of travel that definitely wasn’t particularly comfortable back then. The statue serves as a stop along the Lincoln Heritage Trail.
• Grave of Mother Jones- Old Reservoir Rd, Mount Olive, IL-
Along old Route 66, a monument stands over the grave of union supporter and labor activist, Mother Jones, who lived to be 100. Known as the “Miner’s Angel”, she died in 1930 and was buried in a miner’s cemetery. Mother Jones’ monument is flanked by two bronzes of a miner and a factory worker.
Mother Jones fought to preserve worker’s rights and is infamous for her bravery fighting “company towns” and her campaign supporting workers of the United Mine Workers Union. For all of her social reform and involvement in skirmishes between laborers and their employers, she was known at the time as one of the most dangerous women in America.
Mother Jones co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World and many of her ideals are what formed the strong laborers unions and worker’s rights we have today and requested to be buried in Mount Olive as it had the only union-owned cemetery in the United States at the time.
• Monument to the Schoolteacher Tornado Martyr- Ayres St., White Hall, IL- In 1927, Annie Louise Keller saved a classroom full of schoolchildren from a tornado that tore through her school- a monument of her holding two children marks the spot.
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