Despite what people think of rural Illinois (it being flat, dull, and lacking culture), many towns across the state break that stereotype. Roughly 90 miles outside of Chicago, you find a charming town of Oregon, Illinois. It’s a lovely town nestled on the Rock River. This tiny hamlet had rugged enough (think hills and pine trees) to lure famous sculptor Lorado Taft to the region in 1898 to find an artist colony. I can only imagine what the conservative and God-fearing residents of Oregon, IL thought of these weird, artsy folk frolicking through their pine forests, but Lorado Taft left quite a legacy in this region; namely his famous work, the Eternal Indian, or more commonly called “The Blackhawk Statue” This monument is incredible, standing high above the Rock River, watching over the Rock River Valley.
Fun Fact: Oregon, Illinois is NOT named after the state, Oregon is a native American word for “River of the West”
Despite being at this site THREE times, this was my first time actually seeing the statue in all it’s glory because for YEARS, it was under wraps during a restoration project. It was well worth the wait though, it’s a beautiful sculptor that stands serenely in Lowden State Park. One rarity of this region is the number of pine trees, Illinois doesn’t have many pine forests, but around Oregon, Illinois, there are enough to make you feel like you’re in the Pacific Northwest.
Literally a sky of pine needles.
Aside from the Eternal Indian, his work is featured in Oregon, Illinois by the county courthouse, The Soldier’s Monument, which has been wowing statue enthusiasts (is that a thing) since 1916.
The courthouse is a beaut as well; here’s it being flanked by one of Taft’s soldiers. Homeboy got a jawline that can cut glass, just saying. #ZaddyAF
A contemporary piece of art across the river is this Native American wearing a fish hat. Although it looks odd, its message is that the Rock River is a river of plenty and a river that helped feed the Native Americans of the region. Batavia, Illinois also, has this exact statue, so if you happen to be in Batavia, keep an eye out for its twin!
Around the square is a new brewery, which has something that not all breweries have….BOOZE! Beer can be dandy, but liquor does it quicker. Plus dem card tho #TeamThicc. It’s a relatively new brewery, but we enjoyed ourselves at Ogle County Brewery, and it’s nice to see some commercial activity occurring in this somewhat sleepy downtown.
Northeast of Oregon is a tiny village of Byron, Illinois, the “Gateway to the Rock River”! One interesting piece of history in this small village is the Soldier’s Monument located just east of downtown; it’s the oldest in Illinois; created in 1866. It’s pretty weathered thanks to marble being as durable as most gay relationship (oh snap, I went there!) but definitely an interesting piece of local history
Cheers bitches! Alfresco drankz (and some bomb-ass cheese curds) with a Rock River view at Hairy Cow Brewery. All that history sightseeing, getting in those steps (because hoes wanna fit into their pre-pandemic clothes eventually) and sunshine have us worn out. REMEMBER! Illinois not only a flat state of corn (even though sometimes it feels like it) throughout the state are wonderful hidden gems; be they historical, boozy, or just plain quirky. Get out and see some of it!
-Anthony & Jared