Nation's Oldest Civil War Veterans Monument Facing Stability Concerns

By: Stephen Johnson
By: Stephen Johnson

Standing 70 feet tall in downtown Freeport, the nation's oldest Civil War monument is becoming a cause for concern. Cracks to the base of the 140-year old structure are leading some to question if there's hidden damage.

"As we can tell from looking at the base of the monument and the areas around it, we've got quite a bit of settling and cracking going on, which would indicate there's some sort of weakness or unsettling of the ground underneath", says Stephenson County Board Chairman John Blum.

Blum thinks a water main leak could be the reason for the damage and says an inspection of the area surrounding the historic site should be done to test that theory, helping preserve the monument that some believe have values that extend beyond county lines.

Dr. Edward Finch of the Stephenson County Historical Museum says, "It has great historic value and it's also continuing tradition for not only Stephenson County but for the United States of honoring the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. So in that sense it has its own demand for priority."

Blum believes the Civil War monument should receive significant care over the long term and says the cost of repairing the site has to fit within the county's budget.

"Economics being what they are and taxes being what they are, we don't want to burden the taxpayers with any more burden than we have to. We've also got competitive issues we need to invest in as well."

The monument has seen its changes over the years; a 13-foot statue that stood atop the structure was destroyed in 1960 after being struck by lightning. An eternal flame later took its place, but was turned off during the energy crisis in the late 1970s and was never restarted.

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