The Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition has produced a series of 35 Interpretive Murals that are installed along the Illinois Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway and its corridor in over two dozen communities. Each mural depicts the history, heritage and events of the highway and its impact on American travel.
The Coalition worked in a collaborative process directly with local historians, civic leaders, and talented artists to bring the murals to each community. This project effort provides a wonderful way to share the intriguing stories about the evolution of travel with the visitors who explore the Lincoln Highway in Illinois and discover all that it has to offer. With completion of the mural series, a collection of postcards is being created to highlight each mural. A website dediicated to the mural series is also in the development stages. This website will include the stories behind the murals and select information about the mural subjects and the creation process. Check back for updates on the progress of these new projects!
Ashton Mural | 810 Main Street
Ashton’s Pavement Jubilee was a momentous occasion to celebrate the recently paved Lincoln Highway and the town’s new electric streetlights. The two day event drew 10,000 people from many neighboring towns. Ashton was proudly adorned for the celebration, including two illuminated arches erected over the business district which were beautifully trimmed in autumn leaves and plumes. Crowds enjoyed parades complete with decorated autos, floats, confetti and serpentine paper. Other festivities included auto races, ball games, athletic contests, band concerts, and dancing in the street.
Aurora Mural | 50-52 North Broadway (Route 25)
Aurora was the first city along the Lincoln Highway with street lights and was among the first in the nation to have them also. Yet again, enhancements to the highway spawned new commerce for communities along the road. With street lights, stores and businesses could remain open longer, streets were safer and communities grew exponentially. Aurora installed the first electric street lights in 1881, and in 1908 adopted its official nickname, “City of Lights”.
Batavia Mural | 109 South Batavia Avenue
Improved roads like the Lincoln Highway liberated Americans, leading to the demise of streetcars like this one that once operated in downtown Batavia. For just 15 cents, people could travel downtown to shop or attend church on the fail line that ran along Batavia Avenue between Geneva and Aurora. For a time, motorists shared the roadway and drove alongside the embedded tracks, but demand for the streetcar decreased over time, and the automobile became the preferred mode of transportation.
Byron Mural | 504 Blackhawk Drive
With the development of Lincoln Highway as the first transcontinental highway, small automobile companies began sponsoring racers to set speed records in an effort to compete with General Motors and Ford. In 1916, Bobby Hammond completed the trip in 6 days, 10 hours and 59 minutes. Within a couple of years, this record became 4 days and 14 hours. The most famous run was done by L.B. Miller who made the trip in 102 hours, 45 minutes in 1925.
Cortland Mural | 55 West Lincoln Highway
When created, most of Lincoln Highway consisted of dirt and gravel. The need for hard-surfaced roads was never more apparent than in Illinois. During rainstorms, the sticky prairie soil bogged down early automobiles. While paving Lincoln Highway in Cortland, a farm now named “Folly Hollow” and the site now known as DeKalb County Landfill were contracted to supply gravel to the project. Even though trucks and autos were developed, horses were called upon to help power the era of concrete roads.
Chicago Heights Mural | 137 East 14th Street
This mural is painted from a vintage photograph depicting the McEldowney Bridge that once crossed Thorn Creek in Chicago Heights and Henry C. Ostermann, the Lincoln Highway Association Field Secretary. Ostermann crossed the bridge at least twice a year inspecting the Lincoln Highway across the country. Chicago Heights is known as the “Crossroads of the Nation” where the Lincoln and Dixie Highways intersect making it an important stop on the Lincoln Highway. A special element in this mural is the “L” sign. It’s painted in red, white and blue, and is a three-dimensional piece attached directly to the mural surface, which contributes greatly to the stunning visual of the black and white image.
Crest Hill Mural | 1693 Plainfield Road
In 1919 the U.S. Army began an epic journey full of challenges; a transcontinental trek traveling on the Lincoln Highway, testing the mobility of military transports traveling long distance. Vehicles often got stuck in the mud, slipped off the road into ditches, and some were even blown over cliffs. Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower was the military observer, keeping a daily log of the trip. Eisenhower wrote,” we were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted.”
Crest Hill Mural 2 | 1701 Larkin Avenue
The mural tells the exciting national Lincoln Highway story of “Women on the Lincoln Highway”, featuring Anita King and Alice Ramsey. Each woman used her excellent driving skills to make historic, record setting trips across the country on the early Lincoln Highway. These road trips and public appearances were designed for promoting car manufacturing companies, Hollywood studios and the new highway. Exquisite sepia tones in the painting bring the highly detailed portraits of the women and their cars to life for the viewer.
Creston Mural | 101 North Main Street
Illinois was the only state to have Lincoln Highway drinking fountains. They were donated by Carl Parker in memory of his mother, Amanda Sutherland Parker, who had grown up in the Garden Plain area of Whiteside County. Originally, the fountains were to be placed every ten miles across Illinois. This was not practical because of the water supply, so the fountains were donated to the towns and cities. Seventeen fountains were donated, and the 1914 Progress Report states that nine of them were then being placed.
The fountains were donated free of charge, but the recipients had to meet certain criteria: 1) the name of the street that the Lincoln Highway traversed through town had to be changed to “Lincoln Way”; 2) that the entire route through town had to be marked with the painted LH signs; and 3) that the town had to agree to assume the expense of installing and maintaining the fountains. The design of the fountain made it very useful in that it was a pedestal type with a drinking bubbler on the top and a spigot on the side for drawing off water in a pail. Along the inside edge of the bowl were the words “In Memoriam” so that “all who stooped to drink would see it”.
DeKalb Mural | E. Lincoln Highway and 7th Street
When the Lincoln Highway was established in 1913 towns along the route were encouraged by the Lincoln Highway Association to rename the main street through their community. DeKalb was the first city in the nation to do so. An arched monument, built by the Chamber of Commerce in the 1920s along the Lincoln Highway, had an inscription that read “DeKalb: A Live Wire City 10,000 Strong”, a reference to the important role barbed wire played in the city’s history.
Dixon Mural | 106 West River Road
Dixon Evening Telegraph – July 22, 1919… An Army Convoy is traveling the United States’ only transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway, to test the reliability of military vehicles. A last-minute volunteer for this trip is a young lieutenant colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower. Stopping in Dixon today, the convoy parked 65 vehicles around the courthouse square while 235 officers and men sat on the lawn and ate a lunch prepared by the citizens of Dixon.
Franklin Grove Mural | 119 North Elm Street
The mural vividly pays homage to The Lincoln Highway Association’s first Field Secretary, Henry C. Ostermann. He traveled the highway coast-to-coast, at least twice a year meeting with Association consuls in support of the highway. Depicted on the mural in full color and detail is an image of a Lincoln Highway pin. As an avid promoter of the Lincoln Highway, nearly 100 years ago Ostermann sold the very first pins in support of the new road to a gathering in Franklin Grove’s historic H.I. Lincoln Building. The H. I. Lincoln Building is also painted into the mural and still stands today as the Lincoln Highway Association’s National Headquarters.
Frankfort Mural | 11008 West Lincoln Highway, Route 30
In July 1928, four Eagle Scouts were selected for a nationwide safety tour to promote the Lincoln Highway and the upcoming national scouting event in which the Lincoln Highway concrete markers would be installed. The scouts, two scoutmasters, and a driver set out in a new Hudson Touring Car and an REO Speedwagon. Their caravan stopped in towns along the route to perform daily safety demonstrations. In one entry of his trip diary, Eagle Scout Bernard R. Queneau wrote, “We did three little good road turns: pushed a car from a ditch, helped change a flat, and lent some gasoline.”
Fulton Mural | 10th Avenue and 3rd Street
Fulton known as the “gateway to the west”, is the western terminus of the Illinois portion of the Lincoln Highway. For a toll, motorists could continue on the route across the mighty Mississippi River on the Fulton-Lyons Bridge. The high bridge provided a quick crossing rather than the once burdensome ferry boat trip. Traffic was often stopped as tourists got out of their vehicles to capture the perfect photo atop the lofty bridge with its spectacular view of the scenic river and bordering states.
Geneva Mural | 10 South Second Street
Geneva played an important role in connecting the cities of the Fox River Valley to the Lincoln Highway. The city was eager to cater to the newly motoring public by offering well-lit, paved streets, a stop-and-go light, and a motorcycle policeman to assist the busy drivers. Geneva’s lively downtown offered travelers something for their every need: over a dozen service stations and garages, first class accommodations at Hotel Geneva, and numerous restaurants and shops.
Genoa Mural | 240 West Main Street
The Good Roads Movement: Illinois was a leader in the Good Roads Movement that swept through rural America during the early 1900’s. Road dragging contests - “sleds” hitched to a team of horses and dragged along the road, packing and smoothing the road surface - were held as part of a campaign to improve Illinois highways. While communities like Genoa had been linked to major markets by railroads, they realized the need for a good hard road system in order to reach other services and entertainment in nearby communities.
Joliet Mural | 753 Ruby Street
Auto camping became the rage in the 1920’s as families experienced the independence and excitement of traveling. In 1923 an estimated 9,000 people stopped at the tourist camp pictured here in Pilcher Park. Conveniently located near Lincoln Highway, campers rigged their tents and cooked over open fires along the scenic banks of Hickory Creek. Most stayed just a day or two and then set off to see and explore new places.
Malta Mural | 127 North Third Street
The Lincoln Highway's first Seedling Mile of paved highway was built in Malta. This strategically chosen location demonstrated the need for better roads, showing the stark contrast between travel on concrete versus mud.
From concept to completion, the entire project was finished in just 14 months, with private donations, State-provided equipment and engineers. Only 10’ wide and designed to show that pavement could withstand traffic 20 years into the future, the first Seedling Mile was completed with much celebration in November 1914.
Maple Park Mural | 302 Willow Street
The development of the Lincoln Highway changed the look of America as roadside gasoline stations sprung up along the route in every town to accommodate motorists. By the 1920’s this filling station in Maple Park was a welcome site to drivers.
Proud gas station employers in uniform, provided great customer service, cleaned your windshield, offered free air for your tires and gave away road maps. Dedicated to the automobile traveler, many stations also touted food, auto parts, expert repair services, staying open day and night and automobile storage.
Morrison Mural | 208 East Main Street
The recently paved Lincoln Highway provided motorists greater ability to visit neighboring towns for special events. Never was this more evident in Morrison than during the 1921 Whiteside County Fair. Posters advertising the 51st Annual Fair boasted, “Special Parking Place for Your Automobile,” attracting a record breaking crowd. Newspapers reported, “Over 4,000 autos were parked on the grounds during the day… and success of the fair was attributed in part to… auto processions on the Lincoln Highway and efficient management of all the automobiles.”
New Lenox Mural | 125 West Maple Street
Trolley cars were the first means of motorized public transportation within city limits as well as going to areas inaccessible by railroad. The trolley line that served New Lenox ran between Chicago Heights and Joliet, although the trolley was dependable, it was not often fast. With the development of the paved Lincoln Highway, came a new form of independence for motorists and increased automobile traffic. The popularity of traveling by car became a way of life, passing up the need to depend on trolley schedules and routes. The trolley system soon gave way to the automobile.
North Aurora Mural | 1 North Lincoln Highway
Grand entrance gates located on the Lincoln Highway welcomed guests to Exposition Park. Unique attractions such as the “world’s largest” log cabin and the thrill of hot air balloon rides guaranteed fun for everyone who visited.
The Lincoln Highway provided easy travel for the many who sought getaway destinations like Exposition Park. This beautiful 150 acre complex included; “the world’s largest” fresh water swimming pool, an elaborate cottage style hotel, midway rides, sports activities, children’s attractions and various exhibits. Guests were also entertained by stunt flyers, harness racing, rodeos, auto races and the ultimate thrill of locomotive demolition derbies. The park was promoted as, “Located on the Lincoln Highway … it affords pleasure to millions of people who desire amusement of a high-class nature.”
Oregon Mural | 103 Washington Street
The Official Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway, 1924 edition, stated: "Delightful side trips can be made...Up the beautiful Rock River". One reason for taking the trip to Oregon was to see the colossal statue of Blackhawk -- standing 48 feet tall on the bluffs over the Rock River. Dedicated in 1911, it was created by Lorado Taft, and is the second largest cement statue in the world. The statue was Taft's gift to the people of Illinois, with financial help from Frank Lowden, after whom Lowden State Park is named.
Oswego Mural | 67 South Main Street
The Boy Scouts of America completed the monumental task of simultaneously placing more than 3,000 LIncoln Highway Markers across the nation on September 1, 1928. The concrete markers were designed to immortalize the highway dream - and as a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. A careful plan required Scout troops along the route to carry out their part of the project upon an official signal from the Boy Scouts New York headquarters. These iconic markers were set from coast-to-coast in one day. Even troops in towns that were located miles from the highway volunteered their help.
Park Forest Mural | 348 Victory Drive
In order to construct a paved highway across America it was necessary to enlist nationwide, public support for the first coast-to-coast roadway. It was decided the highway would be dedicated to the martyred President Abraham Lincoln. Naming this route the Lincoln Highway appealed to American patriotism and forged a united crusade among distinct groups for the cause of improved roads. As stated in the official Proclamation of the Route of the Lincoln Highway…”RESOLVED, that the Lincoln Highway now is and henceforth shall be an existing memorial in tribute to the immortal Abraham Lincoln.”
Rochelle Mural | 429 Lincon Highway
In late April 1915 – not yet famous for her writings on etiquette – Emily Post made a decision to travel America’s roads across the new Lincoln Highway and write about it for Collier’s Magazine. Starting out from Grammercy Park in New York City, Ms. Post was accompanied by her son, Edwin (Ned) and her cousin, Alice Beadleston, the three travelers set out for San Francisco in a custom-made automobile – and 45 days later they arrived – though the car had to be rail-freighted to San Francisco from Arizona after a mechanical breakdown. On May 6, 1915, Emily’s group became stuck in “a sea of mud” just outside of Rochelle, Illinois, after a very heavy spring rainfall the group took rooms in the old Collier Inn for the next two days and discovered the joys of a small Midwestern hotel said Ms. Post. “It seemed to us as though we had found a veritable ritz.”
Rock Falls Mural | 1412 West Rock Falls Road
Special events, fairs, and festivals drew travelers to towns located just off the Lincoln Highway. People drove from miles around to enjoy the annual Corn Carnival in Rock Falls. Every building along city streets was decorated with harvest corn. The Corn Carnival offered something for everyone. There were exhibits and contests with prized blue ribbons. Car races and the popular event known as Auto Day were big crowd pleasers.
Sauk Village Mural | 1 Sauk Trail Plaza
Portions of the Lincoln Highway were first established by identifying existing roads to be paved. The Sauk Trail from the eastern Illinois border westbound through Sauk Village was designated as a section of the original route, including the Kalvelage Bridge. It served as the major road on daily commutes across the Illinois-Indiana state line, essential to the farmers transporting dairy, children going to school and tourists traveling into the city. In the early highway days as automobile traffic increased, motorists often had to share the bridge with local livestock.
St. Charles Mural | 102 East Main Street
The Lincoln Highway provided travelers easy access to vacation getaways along its route and corridor. Eye-catching roadside advertising directed motorists to the cultural activities of St. Charles and the scenic beauty and recreational opportunities along the Fox River shorelines, located just off the highway. The city’s tourism jewels, located in the heart of St. Charles, were the lavish amenities of the famed Hotel Baker and the renowned entertainment appearing at the lush Arcada Theatre.
University Park Mural | 580 Farmview Road
In 1916, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren set out to prove women could ride motorcycles across the country to serve as military dispatch riders. Even though their attempt was futile, they became the first women to make a solo coast-to-coast trek on the Lincoln Highway – traveling from New York to California. These courageous women came across obstacles like being arrested in the Chicago area for wearing men’s clothing, but still completed their trip in about two months.