By Morgan Hamlin
The following tale of restoration was told to me by Grant Park’s own Miller, the Milledge Fountain’s merlion sculpture that has seen almost 100 years of Grant Park History.
You should have seen me in my prime, all the people used to stop and stare. But as I got older, they’d just walk by without a glance. After 90 years of living in Grant Park, it’s about time I got some work done. I’m getting so old my body hasn’t worked properly since the 50’s. I’ve run my mouth so much, I feel like my lips have fallen off. And my house? Don’t even get me started. Tiles are falling off my walls, the lawn is a mess, there’s no running water, and the bowl below me has surely seen better days. But what’s a Merlion to do? Every day, I have waited and waited for someone to notice me, thankfully, the Grant Park Conservancy did. Although I had to temporarily leave my home, I consider this a well-deserved vacation. At the beginning of the trip, I met Christine Mann (the spa associate/neighborhood artist) who covered me in a restorative clay mask. Suddenly, I felt whole again. After, Christine said she could help bring back my voice by preforming reconstructive surgery to my mouth and nose, which I so desperately needed.
Next, I traveled in the back of her car, and was handed over to a man named Bill Spence who was looking to give me a new bronze shine. Ladies, you have NEVER seen a highlighter like this. In order to get a better understanding of my shape, he laid me down in a sand bath where I got nice and cozy. It’s a new technique they’re using these days called “sand casting”, but you know me, I can barely keep up with these fancy trends. When I was taken out of the bath, my body left the most beautiful imprint on the sand. I watched from the counter as solid metal turned to glowing liquid right before my eyes (these humans are incredible). He poured the luminous stream of Bronze into the sand where I once rested. I knew as the metal filled the mold, that it was time for me to leave my old clay body, and start this fresh and shiny new life.
As I fell asleep, I thought of all the people I’d met, the conversations I had heard, and the ones who helped me in my time of need. When I awoke, I was renewed. But where was my home? Would I ever return to my beloved Grant Park? Little did I know, that not only would I return to my rightful place at Milledge, but that my home would now be restored back to its former glory. That plaza the humans always walk on? It was changed from worn asphalt to a beautiful cobblestone. My lawn was fixed up in no time, all thanks to a woman named Mandy Mooney and her dad Tim. And now I can look out and see bees resting happily on purple cone flowers, which fills my heart with joy. There was another human, his name is Nick Walloch, he laid the gorgeous tile that surrounds me so elegantly, added lights so everyone can see me, even in the dark. And most importantly, Nick brought the water back to me and I am thriving. Now I know my purpose in life, to breath magic water from my mouth and welcome visitors to my home, The People’s Playground. Folks around here seem to think I’m a pretty important Merlion, and for them, I will continue the legacy.