Thaddeus Kosciuszko Monument, 1904
Median of East Solidarity Drive southeast of the Shedd Aquarium
Thaddeus Kosciuszko (Tadeusz Kościuszko) arrived in America from Poland in 1776, joining the Continental Army as a skilled engineer. He helped in the efforts of the American Revolutionary War by designing forts in several strategic places, such as Philadelphia, West Point and Saratoga. He later returned home to lead his native military in a 1794 uprising. Recognized as a national hero of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and the United States, Kosciuszko is arguably one of the most honored people in Polish history. American cities in Mississippi and Texas are named after him and his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a national memorial.
In 1893, Chicago, the “largest Polish city outside of Warsaw,” set a competition for all Polish sculptors, either in Poland or abroad, to create a memorial to represent Kosciuszko on a horse, in an American uniform, wearing the order of the Cincinnati. A large committee of Chicagoans of Polish decent began raising $30,000 for the sculpture. In newspapers of the day reporting on the progress of the committee, even penny donations were requested as, “the matter is already so far advanced that it cannot be dropped without impugning Polish-American honor . . . and the Poles will prove that they never lack in generosity where honor to a great hero is concerned.” Among generous donations was $500 from Ignacy J. Paderewski, the celebrated pianist and second Prime Minister of Poland.
On a rainy September 11, 1904, more than 50,000 people gathered in Humboldt Park, which was in a neighborhood where many Polish-American families lived, for the dedication ceremony that included a parade, choral performance and the reading of a congratulatory telegram from President Theodore Roosevelt.
In the mid 1970s, the Chicago Park District removed the statue because an adjacent ball field was enlarged. Eight years later, the Polish National Alliance, Polish Roman Catholic Union and Polish Women’s Alliance sponsored the conservation and relocation of the monument to Solidarity Drive. They also installed a time capsule beneath the sculpture containing many documents related to Polish history. In 2008, when roadway improvements required a slight relocation of the monument, additional items were added to the time capsule. Sculptor Kasimir Chodzinski has a work in Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza, honoring another Polish hero, General Casimir Pulaski.