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Batavia takes its place in Lincoln Highway mural project

The latest series Lincoln Highway interpretive murals has been installed downtown Batavia. 

The latest in the series of Lincoln Highway interpretive murals has been installed in downtown Batavia. 

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Updated: September 13, 2012 6:17AM

BATAVIA — Batavia is the latest community to join in the Lincoln Highway interpretive mural project.

The mural was installed Wednesday on the north façade of 109 S. Batavia Ave. (Route 31), in the downtown area.

“The Lincoln Highway is an illustrious chapter of American history,” Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said.

The Lincoln Highway was the country’s first coast-to-coast highway originally stretching 3,389 miles from New York City to San Francisco in 1913.

“The fact it intersected through Batavia at the time was looked upon as a monumental event in Batavia’s livelihood – the city received visitors on the way,” Schielke said.

The 8-by-20-foot hand-painted mural resembles a vintage postcard of a bustling 1900s street scene in front of the United Methodist Church – one of the most historically significant buildings in Batavia – where passengers once boarded the electric trolley cars that operated on Batavia Avenue and traveled to Aurora or St. Charles.

The interpretive mural depicts how the electric trolley cars transitioned to the automobile with the onset of improved roads like the Lincoln Highway.

“We were a multi-mobile community long before the term was fashionable,” Schielke said. “We are trying to do the same thing on the Illinois Tollway system with buses. We should have picked up on what we were doing 100 years ago.”

Schielke said the other connection of the Lincoln Highway to Batavia was Mary Todd Lincoln’s stay at Bellevue Place, a private rest home and sanitarium for women in 1875.

“Our stretch of the Lincoln Highway is one of the very few in the United States where we can identifiably and historically tie members of President Abraham Lincoln’s family in close proximity to the Lincoln Highway,” Schielke said.

The Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition public art initiative traces the 179-mile Illinois byway corridor in more than two dozen communities, including Aurora, North Aurora, Oswego, St. Charles and Maple Park, with Batavia being No. 24.

“This one tells another story about trolley cars… and their eventual demise due to the popularity and speed of automobiles… The photo they supplied is almost as is,” Jay Allen said on his blog. Allen is the artist commissioned to create the interpretive mural series.

The Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition is the designated management agency overseeing the national scenic byway that looks for ways to recognize the significance of the highway and make the historic stories come to life for visitors.

Each community receiving a mural is asked to designate representatives to work on the project, secure a building site, conduct research that links their community to the Lincoln Highway and agree to provide maintenance and preservation of the mural.

The 1998 revision of “John Gustafson’s Historic Batavia” by Schielke and Marilyn Robinson has a reference about the old mode of transportation:

“Many of the women liked to go to Aurora to shop. They said, ‘There is more selection in the bigger city. Besides a day’s excursion is so much fun, and the fare is only fifteen cents.’”

Passersby will see the mural while heading south on Batavia Avenue on the north wall of the Batavia Floral and Gift Shoppe.

“It is an honor to recapture the memory of the Lincoln Highway. It was a proud chapter of Batavia’s history and I am pleased to see it preserved in such a prominent fashion,” Schielke said.

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