There are questions about the future of a local landmark now that Walmart is moving to the site of the old Watchtower Plaza in Rock Island.
The city landed the big box giant, hundreds of jobs, and about two million dollars more in tax revenue, but preservationists and locals are wondering what will happen to the Chief Black Hawk statue?
“The Chief’s been around forever, since the old Zayre’s was there. It’s kind of a staple of Rock Island, an heirloom,” said longtime businesswoman Chris Elsburg. She owns Elsburg Insurance, which will be torn down as part of the Walmart development.
Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley says he’s fielded a lot of questions from people concerned about the chief.
“At the grocery store, at church, people say the Walmart deal is great, but the statue has to stay. My youngest daughter, she’s 23. She texted me and said, ‘The statue cannot go!’” Pauley said.
Pauley says Walmart will decide if it wants to incorporate the chief into its landscape. If not, the city will make sure it is saved
“Is it going to stay in the same place? I don’t know, but it will be in Rock Island, I’ll guarantee that. The statue will stay in Rock Island,” said Pauley.
The two-sided metal figure sits high on a pedestal along 11th Street at the former Watchtower Strip mall. It’s never been painted, its original porcelain coating is intact.
Elsburg says she thinks the statue would fit well at Black Hawk State Park, or Schweibert Park along the river.
“We just hope that it gets saved and put someplace where it’s appreciated,” she said.