SNEED EXCLUSIVE: Aldermen seek to junk monument to fascist Italo Balbo

SHARE SNEED EXCLUSIVE: Aldermen seek to junk monument to fascist Italo Balbo

The Balbo monument just east of Soldier Field, near Burnham Harbor. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mamma Miaaaaa!

It’s a monumental task!

Sneed has learned a major move is afoot to remove a monument given to Chicago by Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1933.

• To wit: It’s a monument to Italo Balbo, an Italian Air Force Marshal famous for making the first transatlantic crossing from Rome to Chicago — and helping bring Mussolini to power in 1922. (He was Mussolini’s air comandante.)

• Translation: Watch for Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) to join Ald. Ed Burke (14th) “in righting a wrong” by also removing the name of a fascist lieutenant from one of the most heavily traveled streets on the lakefront: Balbo Drive, which was also named after the Italian aviation ace.

Italo Balbo with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Italo Balbo with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

“I’m amazed the citizens of Chicago have not demanded that these symbols of fascism — a street and a statue bearing Balbo’s name — donated by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, a sidekick of Adolf Hitler, be removed decades ago from the city’s landscape,” said Burke.

“It is now time Chicago does something permanent about this embarrassing anomaly,” he added.

The move follows in the wake of plans in other cities to take down Confederate statues, but is intended to deal with a monument of a different sort, “one from a repressive dictatorship that has nothing to do with our history,” said Burke.

• The plan: To petition the Chicago Park District for the removal of the Etruscan pillar located on Park District property — Grant Park — and petition the City Council to rename Balbo Drive “after a late Chicago mayor who never was honored by having a building or street dedicated to his memory,” Burke added.

Who’s that?


• Answer: Former Mayor Martin H. Kennelly who served from 1947 to 1955, when he was defeated by Richard J. Daley.

• A history note: The monument, which is east of Soldier Field near Burnham Harbor, features a 2,000-year-old Roman column atop a stone base, originally displayed at the Italian Pavilion at the Century of Progress World’s Fair. It is the only remaining structure from the Century of Progress, and is one of the oldest sculptures in the United States.

Former Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly.

Former Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly.

• Backshot: During the 1933 World’s Fair, an Italian squadron of 24 sea boats landed in Lake Michigan near Navy Pier after flying  from Ortobello, Italy, led by Balbo, who was described in one newspaper as a “20th-century version of Leonardo da Vinci.

• Backstory: That’s when 7th Street was renamed Balbo Drive. The pillar, dating from the second century BCE, once stood on the shore of the Mediterranean in Rome.

Ring. Ring.


Sneed has been trying to reach Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on her private cellphone.

To no avail.


Sneed just learned it had been . . . hacked.

The ax?

Soda, no tax?

Pasta, no penance . . . 

Cardinal Blase Cupich, a certified Croatian, had a special mission in mind when he hit the annual Festa della Famiglia in Stone Park on Sunday: Mass, then pasta . . .  telling the congregation in Italian he had no time to eat during his last visit. And he wasn’t going to pass up this chance.

Buon appetito!

No surprise, here . . . 

Secretary of State Jesse White, who keeps threatening to pull the plug, has decided to fill up the tub.

• Translation: White, one of the state’s longest-serving pols, will announce his re-election bid at the Dem county chairman breakfast in Springfield on Thursday.

I spy . . . 

Restaurateur Gina Stefani has got a hit on her hands at Mad Social: The “Chicago Fire” cast dined at Mad Social on Monday night celebrating actress Miranda Rae Mayo’s birthday. In attendance, actors Taylor Kinney, David Eigenberg, Eamonn Walker and Jesse Spencer.

Sneedlings . . . 

Today’s birthdays: Robert De Niro, 74; Sean Penn, 57, and Giuliana Rancic, 43.

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