Frank Eliscu’s Statue: “Once Upon a Time

If you visit the Outdoor Reading Garden at the southwest corner of the library, you will find a striking reminder of the joy of reading.

Once Upon a Time StatueUnveiled in 1989, the bronze sculpture Once Upon a Time is the work of the late Frank Eliscu. Eliscu’s statue of a woman reading to two small children captures the warm and enchanting relationship reading creates.

The statue was the first piece of public sculpture in the city of Elmhurst, Illinois. It was purchased with money from The Gavin Memorial Fund, a bequest to the library of Edith VanDorn Gavin.

At the unveiling ceremony in 1989, then Elmhurst Library Board President John Carroll explained that the Board had commissioned Eliscu to “create a piece that would idealize books and reading and all the joys they can bring to young people and their families.”

The statue was moved from its original location when the new library building opened in 2003.

Eliscu, a well-know and much-heralded American artist, said of Once Upon A Time, “I think this is my best.”

Perhaps best known for the All-American Football Trophy, often called the Heisman Trophy, Eliscu enjoyed a long and varied career. In addition to Once Upon A Time and The Heisman, Eliscu’s works grace museums, banks, religious buildings, corporate headquarters and libraries throughout the country.

His work for another library, the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., was perhaps his most controversial. A Cascade of Books, a five-story, 20-ton, abstract bronze sculpture screen garnered much negative attention when it was installed, but the reaction did not alarm Eliscu.

An article in the Sarasota Florida Herald-Tribune said Eliscu believed that artists are meant to nudge people a little, “to make us stop and look at something in a new way.”

That sculpture “nudged” enough people to earn Eliscu the National Sculpture Society’s highest honor and A Cascade of Books status as a national monument.

In addition to his sculptures, Eliscu did numerous designs for Steuben Glass and created President Gerald Ford’s inaugural medal. He also wrote five books on sculpture and served as the president of the National Sculpture Society.

Born in New York City in 1912, he attended the Beaux Arts Institute of Design and Pratt Institute.

To learn more about the artist go to