(Posted Jan. 5, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
A few years in the making, the archway at London’s Bicentennial Park was dedicated on Dec. 30.
The steel feature, set atop stone pillars, serves as a sign and a formal entry point into the small green space located at the corner of High and Walnut streets, across from the London Fire Department.
The park was created in 2011 in honor of the 200th anniversaries of Madison County, founded in 1810, and the city of London, founded in 1811. The focal point is a monument containing a time capsule filled with county and city memorabilia, to be opened on July 4, 2061.
Benches and a paver patio surround the monument. The London Bicentennial Committee sold customized engraved bricks for the patio. They also sold bicentennial memorabilia and collected flat donations to fund the park’s creation.
Originally, a larger arch and larger stone pillars were planned, but ongoing fundraising efforts fell short, said Charlie Fisher, bicentennial committee treasurer. The group wrapped up its fundraising about a year ago with a final donation from American Legion Post 105, London.
To fit the new budget, London artist, blacksmith and metalworker Vince Shuler revamped the design.
“The columns are shorter and closer together, which lowered the cost of the arch. We were able to get it done for a lot less, so it actually was a good thing,” Shuler said.
The stone pillars stand 4.5 feet tall. The top of the arch is about 13 feet off the ground. The words “Bicentennial Park” are spelled out in steel across the stop of the arch, while steel ears of corn decorate the sides and serve as a nod to the area’s agricultural heritage.
“It turned out very nice,” Fisher said.
Original plans also included incorporation of metal fencing across the High Street side of the park next to the archway. Shuler hasn’t given up on this feature. He said he has feelers out for anyone who might have a couple of panels of wrought iron fencing that could dress up either side of the archway.
Shuler has completed other commissioned works visible to the public around Madison County, includ-ing an artistic installation celebrating teaching and learning at London Elementary School, the bike rack in the shape of the letters in “London” at the Prairie Grass Trailhead behind the Madison County Senior Center in London, and the archway leading into Somerford Cemetery.
Shuler also performs blacksmithing demonstrations at Madison County Historical Society events and local festivals, including the London Jazz and Rib Fest.