Streeterville Public Art Project presents our selection of the month, The Statue of “Captain” George Wellington Streeter, the namesake of our neighborhood.
You can find the bronze statue of Cap Streeter on the northwest corner of McClurg Ct. and Grand Ave. He stands eight feet tall and captures the imposing personality of the man who “shipwrecked” his boat, the Reutan, in 1886 near the now intersection of Fairbanks and Superior. You see, today’s Michigan Avenue was the shoreline of Lake Michigan before Cap Streeter arrived.
In the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1871, much of the cleanup efforts consisted of dumping massive amounts of debris and building materials in the lake. Soon after Cap “landed” he conspired with certain contractors to dump these materials into the lake in order to connect his boat to the shore. He claimed the resulting land as an “independent District of Lake Michigan” and sold plots.
Wealthy shoreline owners sued to evict him and clean out his shantytown. After a gun battle and several lawsuits, the controversial and eccentric Captain was evicted and jailed. As early as the year 1901, the area became referred to as “Streeterville” and has retained the name ever since.
The Artist, Dennis Downes is a local Streeterville resident from Chicago. Downes is a recognized and award-winning artist and author, best known for his artistic accomplishments over the past four decades and the publication of his best-selling book “Native American Trail Marker Trees; Marking Paths Through the Wilderness”.
Downes spent a year researching the Captain and creating the sculpture. His vision was to make the statue appear to be in full stride toward the lake, and he succeeded as the statue projects strength and motion. Several times a year the artist stops by to clean and maintain the integrity of the bronze sculpture and particularly enjoys talking to passers-by about the statue and the history behind it.
The statue was commissioned by Golub & Co. and installed in January 2010. Special thanks to Golub for investing in Streeterville’s Public Art.
In case you were wondering, Cap Streeter’s dog is named Spot.