Monday, August 26, 2013

Balbo Monument

Balbo Monument, 1933
On lakefront bike trail, east of Soldier Field and north of McCormick Place and East Waldron Drive

During the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair, one of the highlights was an Italian squadron of 24 seaboats that landed in Lake Michigan near Navy Pier after flying 6,1000 from Ortobello. The airmen were lead by prominent fascist Italian aviator Italo Balbo who, according to the Daily News, was welcomed by large crowds who were “eager and ready” for a “twentieth-century version of Leonardo da Vinci.” Chicago renamed 7th Street Balbo Drive. 
As a gift for this gesture, Benito Mussolini sent a column, dating from the second century BCE to be placed in front of the Italian pavilion in the Century of Progress Exposition. The column once stood on the shore of the Mediterranean and now stands just a few feet from Lake Michigan, just north of McCormick Place near the bike trail. The original Italian inscription that mentioned Mussolini’s donation of the artifact had worn away by the mid-1960s and in the 1970s was repaired. However, in 1976, the Italian consul in Chicago pointed out to the park district that the re-engraving had misspellings. Today, even the repaired inscription has worn down to the point of being all but illegible.

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