DECATUR – The Decatur transfer house is a work of art.
But visitors to Central Park’s 125-year-old building will find that it is also home to a local piece of art – a mural with images depicting iconic or memorable features of the city. The mural was designed by artist Shani Goss in partnership with the Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
âBetween some of her choices in the boxes, we worked together to include some of the things that we at CVB felt were important to include,â said Teri Hammel, executive director of the Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. âWe came up with this finished design. They are people that people can usually relate to.
For the past two Christmas seasons, the Transfer House has served as Santa’s headquarters for Decatur, where the merry elf listened to Christmas greetings from local children.
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When Santa Claus returned a few weeks ago, the historic structure looked radically different, thanks to a major renovation. The transformation will allow the Central Park building, which serves as the city’s symbol, to be available for rental for events.
Among the changes was the addition of the mural.
âThis piece of art is a great representation of a lot of the markers we have in our community,â said Hammel. “Mostly the fun stuff.”
The symbols on the mural were chosen because they represent important facets of Decatur.
Below is a list of images on the mural and what they represent, according to the artist and the Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Hammel noted that the images may evoke different thoughts about their connection to the community.
Decatur was the original home of the Decatur Staley’s, now the Chicago Bears. The football team came into being in 1919. Two years later it moved to Chicago, changing the name to Bears in 1922.
The iconic symbol of Decatur is found throughout the city and beyond, including its likeness on ornaments and other decorations. The house was built in 1896 at the intersection of Main and Main streets as a transfer point for electric streetcar drivers. The 160-ton structure was moved in November 1962 to the east side of Central Park.
The Farm Progress Show brings international agricultural companies to Decatur every two years. In 2005, Progress City, on the campus of Richland Community College, hosted the first show at its permanent biennial location.
The volunteers associated with Beautify Decatur Coalition have worked diligently to beautify the city. Decatur has participated in national competitions, including America In Bloom. City-wide competitions encourage businesses and individuals to compete. âWe have beautiful gardens in town,â Hammel said. “And the park always looks so pretty and nice.”
The ice cream cone represents the Mr. Softee food truck that can be found in various Decatur activities. âSir. Softee comes here most of the summer and goes to all of our different events,â Hammel said.
Decatur commuters understand the importance of the train to mural painting. Three of the country’s seven major Class I railways pass through Decatur, which puts it in a unique position. As in the past, these railways and Midwest Inland Port form a multi-faceted transportation hub capable of delivering goods for central Illinois and the world. âBut it could be all the trains that drive everyone crazy,â Hammel said.
The very first recorded flight down the state of Illinois took place in 1910 in Decatur, just seven years after the Wright Brothers made history. Today, Decatur Airport, described by local aviation enthusiast Dr Stephen Huss as the âgatewayâ to the community, welcomes visitors from all over the world on a daily basis. She celebrated her 75th birthday in 2021 with a very successful air show.
Decatur has talented artists who adorn local stages for many weekends. âWe have a lot of great theater groups,â Hammel said.
Theater 7, Decatur Underground Theater, Mid-Summer Moon Productions, and Millikin University offer shows at various venues, including the Decatur Civic Center, Richland Community College, and the Lincoln Theater.
Decatur Golf Courses offer stay and play packages, allowing golfers to play multiple rounds of golf, thus staying in Decatur to patronize its various businesses, including hotels and restaurants. In the past, tournaments were held at golf courses in the area.
Located in the heart of the city, Lake Decatur is the source of a lot of fun. Lake Decatur includes 30 miles of shoreline, from which many people take the time to fish, appreciate the wildlife, watch the annual fireworks, or just relax – activities they can also enjoy in the comfort of a boat.
Biking trails run through the west side of Decatur, from the Rock Springs Conservation Area to Fairview Park, passing through Stevens Creek and historic areas. While biking represents the 12 mile trail, walkers and runners are also welcome along the park district trail system.
Decatur is known as the soybean capital of the world. The multipurpose pod is used in oils, tofu, animal feed and other foods.
Decatur is home to three breweries. While a little new to the community, establishments including Decatur Brew Works, Door 4 Brewing Company and Golden Fox Brewing have already made their mark on the microbrewery scene.
The Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park and Memorial, located along the Sangamon River in Macon County, marks the approximate location of Abraham Lincoln’s first home in Illinois. It is one of the many places in the community that claim a connection to the 16th president. There are 16 Wayside Exhibits across town with information on these connections.
A new attraction in the city is the giant butterfly wings painted on the south side of the Decatur Civic Center. The painting was designed by Kelsey Montague, who has made 300 similar pieces around the world. Students at Dennis School in Decatur have also spearheaded efforts to make the monarch butterfly the insect of the state.
The Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater brought music fans from all over to enjoy a show on the shores of Lake Decatur. The music started in 2019. After a forced hiatus in 2020 due to COVID, the 2021 summer concert season has returned with international, national and local artists taking over the stage. Meanwhile, the Central Park scene plays host to its fair share of acts, including the Decatur Municipal Band on Monday nights during the summer.
The city is surrounded by cornfields, which feed the community’s grain processing factories, which in turn help feed the world.
Decatur resident Robert R. Montgomery invented the first metal screen swatter in 1900.
Krekel’s burgers are a must-have for visitors and natives of central Illinois when they return to Decatur. With four Decatur locations, as well as other restaurants in Macon, Mount Zion, Pawnee, and Springfield, the award-winning burger has been an iconic meal since its introduction in 1949.
The Central Park Fountains, which included 10 Gallon Lil, the ML Harry Memorial Fountain, and a Memorial Fountain, have been prominently placed in the center of the park for decades. The most recent version was dedicated 20 years ago. It’s a popular backdrop for reunions, proms, weddings, and other memorable photos.
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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR