Title: Sons Of Charlemagne
Medium: Sculpture – Bronze
Location: State Route 64 on the Main Street Bridge
Owner: City of St. Charles
Map Locator Number: #19
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 my 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 the new embellishments. The current bridge was under construction from 1997-1998. 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 Charlemage, 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.
Sons Of Charlemagne is featured on the Art Tour. Download the Otocast app on your electronic device to hear the artist’s story.
Photographs for the SCAC by Karen Muehlfelt
The Legend of the Four Sons of Charlemagne
By St. Charles, Illinois, Mayor C.V. Amenoff. 1970
It was autumn the year, 1833. The sun in the west was lending its last full rays to add greater resplendence to the autumnal livery of the trees and bushes lining the banks of the meandering river coursing its way through the wilderness. All was peaceful and serene, the silence being broken only by the sound of wildlife making their way through bushes homeward at dusk, or the fish at play in the fast-moving river. Occasionally the sound of a musket could be heard in the distant prairies to the east.