CHICAGO — A new online database has cataloged more than 300 historic World War I monuments and memorials in Illinois, from dough boy statues to public spaces honoring people who served in the Great War.
The database is the product of a yearslong effort by Landmarks Illinois, a historic preservation group. Along with the survey, the group provided grants to communities that wanted to preserve or recover their WWI monuments.
The database documents 311 memorials in 158 Illinois communities. Among them is the Goldstar Memorial in the suburban Chicago community of Riverside. The community received a grant from Landmarks Illinois to help with restoration at the memorial, which was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1921.
In St. Clair County, the database identifies six memorials, including the Belleville Veterans Memorial Fountain and doughboy statue in Freeburg. Madison County has a dozen on its list, including a stone monument in New Douglas “dedicated to the boys from this community who answered their country’s call.”
Joseph Baar Topinka, Commander, American Legion Post #488, said memorials like the one in Riverside are like “postcards to the future.”
“They must be preserved and revered in the present," he said. "If they are not, the future will not have them from which to learn from the past. What a loss that would be to communities like Riverside, Illinois, that are steeped in history.”
The Pritzker Military Foundation provided Landmarks Illinois a $100,000 grant for the database, survey and grant program.