For nearly a decade, the bronze Lion of Cantigny has kept watch outside the Visitors Center. The WWI “doughboy” soldier by sculptor Stephen Spears was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2008.
During construction of the Arrival Plaza, a key element of Project New Leaf, great care was taken to prevent damage to the sculpture and its black rock pedestal. In March, the statue, pedestal and concrete base were relocated in one piece out of harm’s way; for nearly three months, visitors could see the soldier’s upper body and rifle peeking out of a protective crate.
On June 25, the sculpture was hoisted into its new place of honor—about 20 feet west of its previous spot. Moving the 5,000-pound icon was a delicate operation, handled skillfully by Aurora-based Atlas Crane Service.
The doughboy is the centerpiece of the spacious new plaza, where finishing touches are now being applied. Upon completion of adjacent construction work this fall, the statue will receive a thorough cleaning and restorative treatment.
Cantigny’s doughboy is one of three identical statues, all commissioned by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The first was placed in the town of Cantigny, France, on May 28, 2008—90 years to the day after the Battle of Cantigny, the first American-led victory during World War I.
The third statue was dedicated this month, on August 11, at the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division headquarters in Fort Riley, Kansas. The latest dedication coincides with this year’s World War I Centennial and Battle of Cantigny 100th anniversary.