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Sons of Charlemagne

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Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Sculpture – Bronze

Location: State Route 64 on the Main Street Bridge

Owner: City of St. Charles

Story: St. Charles' Main Street Fox River bridge was originally constructed in 1902. Extensive bridge improvements made in 1928 were designed by St. Charles philanthropist and Chicago Tribune cartoonist, Lester Norris. Norris got the inspiration for the alteration to the bridge design from bridges he saw while on his trips to Italy.

The fox sculptures on the Main Street Bridge in St. Charles were a gift to the city from Herbert Crane of Crane Plumbing fame, who loved the Fox Valley and built Wild Rose Farm on Crane Road. They were cast in France and placed originally on marble balustrades on the bridge designed by Mr. Norris in 1927. The balustrades, patterned after a Roman bridge admired by Mr. Norris in his travels abroad, were replaced in 1973 by a contemporary railing of Cor-Ten steel, designed by Robert Lathe. Charles Lamb used the sketches made by Norris to construct the bridge. Workers widened and reconstructed the bridge and added new embellishments. The current bridge was under construction from 1997 to 1998. The original four bronze fox sculptures from the 1928 bridge were installed on the new bridge.

In a 1969 contest sponsored by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce to name the fox that represents St. Charles, student Katherine Bernardi won with her entry of “Charlemagne.” Former mayor of St. Charles and civic leader, C.V. Amenoff, followed in 1970 with a story he wrote called the Legend of the Four Sons of Charlemagne to commemorate the history of St. Charles and the four fox sculptures. The story appears in its entirety on the Art in Public Places web site.

The Charlemagne Award, created in 1968 and named after Mayor Amenoff's story, is a lifetime achievement award given to an individual with a history of distinguished service to the community by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce. These iconic sculptures, the story of The Legend of the Four Sons of Charlemagne, the Charlemagne Award, and Volunteerism, were given greater visibility with the development of Volunteer Plaza. Each engraved paver in the Plaza, circling the reflections sculpture, represents a winner of the Charlemagne Award.

Photograph: Brigette Burgman Photography
  • Public Art