Teddy’s Return to the Heights

Peoria-based artist Lonnie Stewart will create a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt for the Village of Peoria Heights

Lonnie Stewart and his preliminary model of President Theodore Roosevelt

Developer Kim Blickenstaff has hired Peoria-based artist Lonnie Stewart to create a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt for the Village of Peoria Heights. The larger-than-life bronze sculpture will depict our nation’s 26th president in his Rough Rider stage, on horseback, carrying an American flag. The entire piece, including its granite base, will stand about 18 feet tall and take 12 to 14 months to finish.

“Teddy Roosevelt was kind of a central figure to Peoria Heights,” Blickenstaff explains. In 1910, the then-former president toured central Illinois in an open-air Glide, an automobile manufactured in the Heights by the Bartholomew Company starting in 1902. When they reached Grandview Drive, he reportedly said, “I have traveled all over the world, and this is the world’s most beautiful drive.” 

The bronze sculpture will be of “heroic… presidential” scale—a fitting tribute to a man “who defined the American spirit,” Stewart declares. “He once finished a campaign speech with a bullet in his chest. That’s the kind of Teddy I want to show. He was guts personified, and he loved America.” 

Stewart, a native of rural Galesburg, is an internationally renowned painter and sculptor, having depicted the likes of Pope John Paul II, Princess Diana and President Ronald Reagan. His Mother Teresa stands at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, his St. Jude greets visitors to OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, and his 12-foot beer stein at the Peoria Riverfront Museum commemorates the sister-city relationship between Peoria and Friedrichshafen, Germany. He’s also working on a piece related to Peoria baseball Hall of Famer Jim Thome. 

Stewart and Blickenstaff only met about six months ago, connecting over a shared interest in history. No final location for the piece has been chosen, but there’s one thing for certain, according to Stewart. “It will be a landmark.” PM

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