The Lincoln Highway was the first official coast-to-coast highway in the United States, connecting Times Square in New York City with Lincoln Park in San Francisco. It predates the present Interstate highway system by several decades and in its day, served as a crucial link not only connecting East to West, but also small farming communities in the nation’s midsection to each other and to nearby markets. It was the harbinger of a new century and the new century’s story was unfolding along the route.
Today the Lincoln Highway is mostly either a secondary byway or it’s been upstaged and obliterated by a modern Interstate highway system that in many places occupies the same spot. But in recent years there have been numerous efforts to preserve the old highway’s history.
One such effort by the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition (ILHC) is in the beginning stages of production. The ILHC’s preservation method of choice is hand-painted public art, in the form of 40 proposed roadside murals that will celebrate momentous events as well as the everyday life that occurred along the famous avenue as it passed through the Illinois countryside.
Jay Allen, of Shawcraft Signs, Machesney Park, Ill., earned the commission to design and produce the murals. Basing designs on photographs, newspaper clippings and other historical archives provided in part by the ILHC, Allen is working with renowned muralist Bill Hueg who is painting each vignette on sheets of Dibond aluminum composite material in Allen’s studio. “I am designing and collaborating with the immeasurably talented Bill Hueg,” Allen says. “This job is getting the best effort it can be given by the both of us.”
At press time, the first two murals have been installed. Others will appear along the route in the near future. The project is scheduled for completion in May 2011. Stay tuned for detailed coverage in S&DG.