‘Victory Eagle’ statue to land on improved Memorial Drive

Posted on Aug 25, 2015 in Campus News and News

Victory eagle statue
Planning is underway for a complete reconstruction of Memorial Drive, to begin in summer 2016 and continuing the following two summers. The project will replicate improvements made the past three summers to Jayhawk Boulevard, including subsurface utilities, new concrete road surface and sidewalks, and improved LED lighting, with crimson and blue banners adorning the lamp posts.

Campus planners also hope to use the project as an opportunity to move “The Victory Eagle” statue now perched in front of Dyche Hall to Memorial Drive, where it would join the parade of other memorials to KU’s 20th-century war casualties.

The bronze statue, a World War I memorial depicting a female bald eagle defending her nesting eaglets, was part of a national campaign to place replicas of the statue at every county line along U.S. Highway 40, then a primary transcontinental highway. The statue placed at the Douglas-Leavenworth county line was dedicated in 1929, but, as interstate highways overtook their two-lane counterparts in primacy, “The Victory Eagle” became overlooked and, in 1980, was vandalized and knocked off its pedestal.

Tom Swearingen, g’60, then director of exhibits for KU’s Natural History Museum, secured the statue for KU, and it was rededicated on Mount Oread in 1982. Now University Architect Jim Modig, a’73, is eager to see the inspiring work of art find its final, permanent home on Memorial Drive, likely between the Campanile and Korean War Memorial.

“It’s a war memorial,” Modig says, “and it would be great to get it down there with the other memorials and treat it with respect that way.”

Memorial Drive reconstruction is budgeted at about $6 million. Like the Jayhawk Boulevard project, public funds will be used for the utilities, road surface, sidewalks and lighting, and private donations will fund landscaping improvements.

The final stretch of Jayhawk Boulevard improvements had originally been scheduled for completion in summer 2016. It is now scheduled for 2017.

A significant change created by this summer’s work was replacement and repositioning of the boulevard’s north traffic booth. Originally situated at 13th Street, in front of the Kansas Union, the booth was first moved one block south, to 14th Street; that change allowed for easier public access to the Natural History Museum in Dyche Hall, but still restricted daytime access to Danforth Chapel and Lilac Lane.

A significantly smaller booth, which no longer dominates the streetscape as did the previous island, has been moved west of Lilac Lane, allowing for public access to Danforth Chapel, Watkins and Miller scholarship halls, the east lot of Fraser Hall, and Blake and Twente halls.

—Chris Lazzarino

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