What is Taft like?

Taft Campus is located just outside the city of Oregon, Illinois, and has a rich history. During the summer of 1898, the noted American sculptor Lorado Taft and a small group of artists, architects and scholars came to the estate of Wallace Heckman, an idyllic property located on a wooded bluff overlooking the Rock River.

They established a summer retreat as a place to work, exchange ideas and socialize in peaceful isolation away from the distracting pressures and oppressive summer heat of the city. This enclave became known as the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony and flourished until the death of its last original member in 1942.

In 1951, Northern Illinois University acquired a portion of the Heckman estate including heavily wooded areas, open fields, ravines and the site of the original art colony. Named in honor of Lorado Taft, today the 141-acre campus has become the university’s outdoor education and conference center.  For the past six decades, thousands of participants have come to the Taft Campus to teach and learn in the outdoors and to experience the vitality and sense of renewal started by Lorado Taft in 1898.

The Black Hawk Statue, or The Eternal Indian, is a sculpture by Lorado Taft located in Lowden State Park which is near the city of Oregon, Illinois. The statue was created by Lorado Taft, beginning in 1908. and was dedicated in 1911. The statue was planned by Taft and several of his students and associates at the Art Colony, which is now part of the Taft Campus of Northern Illinois University and is adjacent to Lowden State Park.  Black Hawk is 48 feet tall and weighs 536,770 pounds and is said to be the second largest concrete monolithic statue in the world. Reinforced with iron rods, the hollow statue is eight inches to three feet thick. The interior is accessible through a door at the base, although visitors are currently not allowed inside the statue. The outer surface composed of cement, pink granite chips and screenings is three inches thick. Black Hawk is currently being repaired.

Another statue at the Taft Campus is the 1905 sculpture The Funeral Procession, also known as "The Seven Muses". The piece was the collaborative work of six of Taft's students who had taken up residence at the colony for the summer. The assignment required each student to create a human figure but left the subject of the sculpture to their collective choice. The end result is a piece with six human figures carrying a casket on their shoulders.

In the summer of 1843, more than 50 years before the colony occupied the land, Margaret Fuller made her only visit to Oregon, Illinois. Walking along the east bank of the Rock River during her visit, she noticed the natural spring at the base of the bluff. She dubbed the spring "Ganymede Spring", and later sat down beneath the Eagle's Nest Tree, and penned her famous poem "Ganymede to His Eagle". An island at the center of the Rock River across from the eventual colony was named Margaret Fuller Island in her honor.

NOTE: The campus is a great place to hike, with lots of wildlife, but if you would like to hike, dress appropriately and wear water proof shoes.
Poley has a wildlife viewing station at the rear of the building, facing the river. If you have time, please grab a coffee or hot chocolate from the Dining Hall and watch the wildlife.