Cover: The Umbrella Girl statue in Schiller Park
From 1872 to the 1950s, Hebe, the goddess of youth, watched over German Village's Schiller Park. The city purchased Canova's sculpture for $160 from an iron foundry in Philadelphia, and installed it as a water fountain. It moved to different locations around the park, and in the 1920s, an umbrella was added.
Then, the original statue disappeared.
“We don't know whether it's in somebody's backyard, whether it went off to auction in some antique show,” said Ann Lilly, a longtime volunteer with Friends of Schiller Park. “We have no idea what happened to it.”
But in 1996, a new Umbrella Girl emerged. Local artist Joan Wobst created a sculpture modeled after her daughter, Andi. Wearing a dirndl, a traditional German dress, the barefooted girl appears in motion, sandals in hand. The statue was installed above an octagon pond, shaped to resemble an umbrella in reverse.
Today, the Umbrella Girl marks a serene, breezy destination for students looking for a place to sit and work, or children depositing pennies in exchange for wishes.
Roughly 13 years ago, another mystery emerged; each December, an unknown villager places a red cloak on the Umbrella Girl for the holidays.
“It's my understanding that we're on the second red coat,” said Lilly, who helps maintain the statue. “Nobody knows who puts it on, and, you know what? We're not trying too hard to find out.”
1069 Jaeger St., German Village