by Keith Beebe
MAPLE PARK—There is a rich history behind the stretch of Lincoln Highway that travels through Maple Park, and that history is currently represented on an interpretive mural that was installed in the heart of downtown Maple Park on May 24.
The interpretive mural, which is affixed to the west side of Village Hall, is part of the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition (ILHC)’s series commemorating several of the communities located along the Lincoln Highway’s 179 miles. All of the community murals were designed and painted by artist Jay Allen, president of ShawCraft Sign Co.
The Maple Park mural depicts a service station employee flanked by old-time gas pumps, a restroom sign and an ad for tires, indicative of the time period between 1913 and 1928, when three gas stations were located in the village.
“The subject of this mural is pertinent to the history of the Lincoln Highway for many reasons. As the highway developed from dirt and mud to pavement, automobile travel became a way of life,” ILHC Planning Director Sue Hronik said. “Service stations and garages along the Lincoln Highway made it their goal to accommodate motorists’ every need; not just fuel, but all the elements included in the painting.”
The multiple interpretive murals were made possible by grants from the Federal Highway Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Maple Park interpretive mural, which Hronik said was painted from a photo provided by the village, is the 17th of 20 murals that have been installed since January 2010. Murals have also been installed in Aurora, Geneva, St. Charles, DeKalb and Rochelle, just to name a few. Another set of murals will be installed later this month.
“It looks amazing,” Hronik said of the Maple Park mural. “As always, the talent in the artwork and detail are a true gift of Jay and his staff. Each time an ILHC mural goes up, it is such a wonderful thing for the history of the byway and the community that has accepted the gift. Maple Park’s mural is a tribute to the roadside industry of the service station, the Lincoln Highway, as well as how each of those things forever changed the American landscape.”
The murals are valued at $10,000 each, and, according to Hronik, have been well received by their respective towns.
“Some communities actually have had true unveilings, with a tarp covering the mural until an official ceremony takes place,” she said. “Public reaction is always favorable, to say the least. Every town loves their mural—it evokes considerable community pride.”