The Des Plaines Theatre
Originally opened by local entrepreneur Barney Winkelmann in August 1925, the Des Plaines Theatre was the first cinema in town. Some live vaudeville acts also performed on the stage. The architecture is a mixture of Spanish Baroque decorative ceramics with modern elements such as the neon marquee. As other cinemas developed later in the twentieth century, this theater was a popular alternative for second showings and classics. It survived a three-alarm fire in 1982, but struggled in recent years to stay a viable business. The City of Des Plaines and Rivers Casino developed a partnership in 2018 to renovate and reopen the theater in 2020.
Maine West Marching Warriors
When Maine West High School opened in 1959, the concert band and the marching band were one and the same. In the words of the 1968 Legend yearbook, the band “performs at many school activities and adds color and spirit to football and basketball games.” They marched for the Chicago Bears’ fiftieth anniversary in 1969 and have competed across the state and nation, winning many awards. Watts chose to use the band as a central focus of the mural and used reference photos from the band marching in several Des Plaines Fourth of July parades in the 1990s. The uniforms from 1991 until 2004 consisted of blue trousers with a white stripe, gold cummerbund, open jacket, ruffle shirt, gold-crested kepi hat, and a white feather plume.
The Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad ran northwest from Chicago, and our city grew from where that track crossed the Des Plaines River in 1854. Trains provided regular freight service for local farms and passenger service for the developing suburbs. Migrants and immigrants traveled to our town via rail. The Chicago & North Western Railroad took over this line around 1860. It is now owned by Union Pacific with commuter trains provided through Metra.
Orchard Place Airport developed near the small town of Orchard Place, now the extreme south of Des Plaines. Here during World War II, Douglas Aircraft produced C-54 “Skymaster” transport planes, which Watts portrays flying the sky above Des Plaines in the “movie poster” in the center of the mural. As the airport grew, it was renamed after heroic Navy pilot Edward “Butch” O’Hare. Industry developed around O’Hare, contributing to Des Plaines’ economy.
The Sugar Bowl Restaurant
George Fifles opened his restaurant on Miner Street in 1921. The Sugar Bowl grew into a successful and beloved local place for food as well as house-made candies and ice cream. The Fifles family owned and operated the Sugar Bowl until 1997. It reopened soon after as a diner, but without the traditional sweet shop. Though much has changed about and around the business, the Sugar Bowl name and sign remain iconic elements of downtown Des Plaines.
About the Artist
Jason Watts is a large format painter who draws inspiration from the iconography of everyday life. People regularly interact with logos and symbols in their local landscape. He celebrates this in bold and brilliant color in his pieces. Watts used images from the archives of the Des Plaines History Center and DesPlainesMemory.org as subject studies for this mural. For more, go to jwattsart.com.
Mural copyright Jason Watts 2019.