Eagle's nest art colony


A group of Chicago artists and writers, they decided to remain in the Chicago area after the Columbian Exposition of 1893 to encourage each others' art endeavors. To escape the heat and overcrowded city, they spent summers at a farm in Bass Lake, Indiana, but an outbreak of malaria led them to look for a new location. Chicago attorney Wallace Heckman, an arts patron, offered them the use of his summer estate, Ganymede Farm near Oregon, Illinois in Ogle County along the Rock River. Colony representatives signed a lease with him in the summer of 1898, and the document was in force as long as one of the founding members remained alive. Ralph Clarkson, the last member, died in 1942. The colony was called "Eagles' Nest," referring to a tall, dead cedar tree that clung to the high riverbank. For nearly 50 years, Eagles' Nest was a popular home for creative people. The original group included painters Ralph Clarkson, Charles Francis Browne and Oliver Dennet Grove; writers Hamlin Garland, Henry B. Fuller and Horace Spencer Fiske; architects Irving D. and Allen B. Pond; sculptors Lorado Taft and Nellie Walker; organist Clarence Dickinson; and University of Chicago Secretary James Spencer Dickerson. Although sculptor Taft was the moving spirit behind the colony, it continued to flourish until 1942, six years after his death. About a year after the last of the artists and their families left the colony, Illinois' Gov. Lowden died, and the former Eagles' Nest land was purchased as a memorial park. Sources: www.niu.edu/taft/eagles.htm; www.oregonil.com/library-art-collection.html; Betty Madden, "The Eagle's Nest Art Colony Collection"