DeKALB – All Donald Krehl wanted to do was see the statue of G.V. Black – the father of modern dentistry – in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
But as Krehl searched for information on the statue and location at local bookstores, he found there were no guidebooks for the hundreds of statues in the city. It was a common request at the Chicago Architecture Foundation Bookstore and one Krehl decided he would fill.
Krehl, a retired DeKalb dentist, has compiled a guidebook of Chicago’s statues as well as some monuments and memorials called “Monumental Chicago.” The 67-year-old said it took two years of frequent trips from DeKalb to Chicago, but it was a rewarding experience.
“I never started this with the expectation it was going to be a money-making project because, I figured for a guidebook, people aren’t going to want to spend a lot of money,” Krehl said. “But there is a lot of history to gain from statues, and it’s amazing how much is available in Chicago.”
Krehl said he documented the location, artist information and brief descriptions of roughly 240 statues for the book. He said it is nowhere near a comprehensive catalog of all the statues and monuments Chicago boasts, but it does include most of the outdoor structures.
The wealth and variety of history the statues surprised Krehl, who said the artwork covered subjects ranging from the Civil War and World War I to Native American history. There also were unexpected discoveries, such as Al Capone’s gravesite and six different Abraham Lincoln statues, including two depicting his pre-presidential years.
Although Krehl was not a statue connoisseur when his research began, he developed his own favorites during the two-year process.
Krehl said one of his favorite artists is Lorado Taft. Taft built the Fountain of the Great Lakes, which is an allegorical statue that depicts five women as the Great Lakes with the water flowing through them in the same direction as their respective lake. The statue, completed in 1913, now is at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Statues aren’t as prevalent today as they used to be,” Krehl said. “Everything used to be human form, but now modern art is more prevalent.”
The book, which has sold well at the Chicago Architecture Foundation Bookstore, is also available online at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. Krehl said the it generally costs between $15 and $19.
With his statue project behind him, Krehl said he has no immediate plans for a follow-up, but a guidebook on the famous figures at Chicago cemeteries could be a possibility.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” he said.