|Some things at Cantigny are simply iconic. The McCormick House north portico. The WWI “doughboy” outside the Visitors Center. The Dick Tracy bunker at Cantigny Golf.
Another strong candidate for icon status is the mermaid statue in the mansion’s south reflecting pool. Over the years, “Siren” has proven a popular subject in the annual Cantigny photo contest and the park itself has featured her in advertisements and other marketing materials. She’s featured prominently on the park’s Facebook page, too.
This spring, Siren will have a fresh new look. The statue was removed last fall for restoration when the reflecting pool itself received a complete makeover as part of Project New Leaf.
Work on the mermaid and her aquatic home was long overdue.
The pools outside of McCormick House are believed to be at least 90 years old. They are visible in aerial photographs taken before the historic home’s expansion in the 1930s. Siren arrived later but we are not sure exactly when. She is not visible in a photograph taken in 1955 by TIME magazine just after Colonel McCormick passed away. The statue likely was added after Cantigny became a public park in 1958.
Extensive masonry repairs on the south pool, plus waterproofing, were completed in October. The masons also added a new platform for Siren.
The recent restoration of the metallic mermaid was handled by Stuart Dean Co. from Chicago. A chemical cleaning removed decades of paint and calcium. Several layers of protective polyurethane lacquer were then applied.
During the process, something new was learned: The word “Hope” is etched on the statue’s base.
This spring, park visitors will see the mermaid as she originally appeared, shiny and new. The old girl looks considerably younger now, gazing as before on the home of Cantigny’s generous benefactor.