It took the staff at Two Fish Art Glass three weeks to decorate their baby elephant statue purchased in honor of the village’s Centennial Celebration this summer. But it took only a few days for someone to swipe the monument.
Between 9 p.m. on June 13 and 9 a.m. on June 14, the 400-pound statue (including cement base) was stolen from the sidewalk outside of the artisan shop in the 7400 block of Madison Street, according to Cecilia Hardacker, a co-owner of the store. Store employees had put it on display only six days prior.
“I think it may very well have been a prank and the people just didn’t realize how much it meant to us,” Hardacker said.
The statue was part of a cooperative effort between the village and various businesses to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Forest Park’s founding. Similar to the pig statues found in Chicago and the horses found in Oak Park, the baby elephants in Forest Park are a symbol of the village’s history. Elephants also mark Showmen’s Rest in Woodlawn Cemetery where the victims of a 1918 train wreck involving a traveling circus were laid to rest. Other elephant statues can be seen along Madison Street and in front of the public schools.
Police are investigating the incident.
“We’re suspecting it was college guys, but we’re not exactly sure,” Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas said.
Police have talked to a witness who observed three college-aged men loitering near the statue around the time it may have been taken, Aftanas said, but apparently no one saw the actual heist. Because the statue is so unique, Aftanas said he’s hopeful someone will remember seeing it and may be able to help authorities recover the item.
“It’s kind of tough to move that thing quickly, I would think,” Aftanas said.
The elephants are fixed to a slab of concrete before being placed on the sidewalk, but are not secured to the walkway. That practice, Village Administrator Mike Sturino said, will be changing.
“It’s more than disappointing,” Sturino said of the theft. “This is something that’s meant to highlight the community and instill some community pride.”
In the elephant’s stead, Hardacker and her staff have drawn a chalk outline. Flyers and e-mails are being circulated throughout the community to try and locate the statue, and Hardacker said she’s regularly checking online auction sites to see if anyone is trying to sell it.
“We really were surprised at how upset we are, because we work on projects all the time, they go out the door and that’s that,” Hardacker said.
Aside from the $200 in materials and roughly $1,000 worth of labor invested by the staff, Hardacker said all of the employees made a personal investment in the project. The store owners said they are willing to forgive the thief and take the elephant back, no questions asked.
“I look every morning and hope that somebody had some pangs of guilt and brought it back,” Hardacker said.