Tuesday, August 30, 2005


When I started out from Science & Industry last Friday, I imagined that I could go see an enormous outdoor sculpture by Lorado Taft called “Fountain of Time,” which is at the west end of a broad strip of land called the Midway Plaisance. I heard about this sculpture years ago, but have never managed to see it in person. A couple of years ago, we went to Oregon, Illinois, and saw another of his monumental works, the Black Hawk statue (see April 22, 2003).

So I started westward on the Midway Plaisance, which had a role in the 1893 world’s fair, and which is now roughly the southern edge of the U of C. “The first half of its name resulted simply from its location midway between two large parks that it connected,” says the AIA Guide. “Its use as a grounds for the Ferris wheel and other amusements during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition... made ‘Midway’ synonymous with carnival grounds everywhere. A plaisance was one of Fredrick Law Olmsted’s landscape types and referred to a pleasure grounds with winding, shrub-lined paths... [but] the Midway was never developed with such a landscape.”

Its paths are more or less straight, not winding, and it has mature trees, rather than so many bushes, but at least these provided shade. About halfway along, I realized I wouldn’t make it to the “Fountain of Time” and still have time for lunch, so I rested for a few minutes on a park bench, one of several ringing a bigger-than-life bronze that lorded over the surrounding flower gardens. Nice piece of work. A plaque on its plinth said, “Linné."

Carolus Linnaeus, that is. I didn’t know Chicago sported a statue of him. I saw a bust of him once at the botanic gardens in Adelaide, South Australia, but that was abbreviated compared to this one.

Hydepark.org has this to say: “By Johan Dyfverman. [This] is a replica of his at the Royal Gardens in Stockholm. This replica was relocated from Lincoln Park to the Midway in 1976, because ...it was subject to vandalism and much of the Swedish population had moved from the vicinity. Relocation was perhaps requested by Swedish organizations, perhaps as a Swedish-American contribution to the U.S. Bicentennial: Vin Linnes belonged to the 18th Century and was a fountainhead of the Enlightenment. Certainly the move had their consent because a large ceremony was held on April 19, 1976 presided over by the King of Sweden, Karl XVI Gustave, and Mayor Daley. Since Linnaeus was the founder of modern taxonomy and plant nomenclature, it is appropriate that this fine bronze casting and its plinth be located at a great university and become the center of a garden, especially one devoted to reading and enjoyment of winter and summer plants in the midst of the city.”

Formerly a North Sider, now a South Sider. It happens.

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