Lincoln’s promise in the legislation was “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan …” The nonprofit American Veterans Heritage Center, in partnership with the Lincoln Society of Dayton, seeks to raise $379,000 to establish a 100-foot by 100-foot park next to the library on the Dayton VA campus to honor Lincoln.
The park will feature a bronze sculpture of Lincoln now being created by Urbana artist Mike Major in his downtown Urbana studio. Fifteen feet high, the statue will be of a seated Lincoln, pen in one hand and the 1865 legislation in the other, gazing toward the VA Medical Center structures.
“(The park) will not only welcome people to the Campus while honoring Lincoln, but it will provide a place for solitude, reflection and healing,” according to the American Veterans Heritage Center website. “It will also stimulate teaching and learning opportunities, while creating a significant tourist destination point.”
Major’s 2nd Lincoln statue for Dayton
In 2016, a Lincoln sculpture created by Major was unveiled at Dayton’s Courthouse Square at the corner of Third and Main streets.
Located by the old courthouse where Lincoln campaigned with an antislavery speech in 1859, the 11-foot bronze figure of a standing Lincoln was commissioned by the Lincoln Society of Dayton.
“He didn’t have a beard when he was campaigning, so the last sculpture was a beardless Lincoln,” Major said of the Courthouse Square figure. Of the new sculpture, he said, “This is an older Lincoln. He’s been through the Civil War, the stress of that. The difference is experience and wear and tear.”
Major said he’s created more likenesses of Lincoln than of anyone else and has read extensively about him.
“Lincoln has had impact worldwide because of his vision and his ability to stay on point in the face of extreme pressure,” Major said, noting that Lincoln sculptures and statues can be found around the world, including in China and Cuba.
He describes Lincoln as a man who told entertaining stories and quoted Shakespeare and as a man of courage and grit.
“The Emancipation Proclamation took a lot of courage and proper timing,” he said, adding, “and he could be extremely powerful with his ‘team of rivals’ that he put together to run the nation.”
Of Lincoln’s legislation to care for ailing veterans, Major said, “It was his promise to the Civil War soldiers that he would take care of them … A lot were seriously injured and unable to work. He wanted to follow through with his promise.”
Major said planning for the project started two years ago and work on the sculpture started early this year with a model about 38 inches tall.
“I always do a model first, make any mistakes small,” he said. “Once everyone’s satisfied, I can enlarge it with the confidence that we won’t have expensive changes.” As of last week, the sculpture was in two parts, one part being the chair on which Lincoln will sit.
“He’ll be sitting on a likeness of a chair he took from his (Springfield, Illinois) home to Washington, D.C., because it fit him,” Major said, adding that some wanted the likeness to be of a fancier chair. Major said that wouldn’t have suited Lincoln, “his humble beginnings, more down to Earth.” He added, “He did a lot of work in that chair.”
The sculpture is scheduled to go to a Zanesville foundry in December, be completed March 2020 and ready for a park dedication next spring.
Architect Sarah Mackert (SJM Studio, Columbus), Major’s daughter, donated her time to design the Lincoln park, which will include a rippled ground.
“It’s symbolic of a large event, creating a ripple effect,” Major said.
A tribute to Lincoln, a thankyou to Dayton “The project was exciting for me because this was the last document he signed before he was assassinated, the document that created the Soldiers Home Administration,” Major said. “When we place the monument, Lincoln will hold the document and will be looking at the result of that document.
“I admire so much about his character,” he added. “Especially in these days of turmoil, it’s refreshing to see that kind of character and leadership.”
Major said he also is pleased to be a part of the project as a thank-you to the city of Dayton.
He attended a Pleasant Hill school without art classes, but for six years, starting in the 6th grade, he was driven every Saturday to art lessons at the Dayton Art Institute by his father, a farmer and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employee.
“To be able to do something for that city where I gained so much in the arts was an honor and it continues to be an honor to do these projects for them,” he said.
Some of the information in this article was found on the American Veterans Heritage Center website (www.AmericanVeteransHeritage.org) and the Lincoln Society of Dayton website (LincolnSocietyDayton.com). Visit these websites for more information about the Lincoln park project and how to make donations.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.
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