Decades after artist Richard Haas began designing a series of murals for Homewood, the images live on, continuing to help define the south suburb.
One mural depicts a rail yard, locomotives shown waiting to be serviced.
One shows a woman gathering fruit in a basket.
Another is of a parade, with old-fashioned cars and carriages decked out with American flags rolling down the street.
According to Haas, the murals “gave a town with no real identity something certainly more to focus on and for people to come back to.”
Haas, now 82, is from Wisconsin though now living in New York City. He says he was invited by community leaders to create the murals in the 1980s. He ended up designing 15. Five were painted in the mid-1980s, the other 10 followed in subsequent years, the latest in 2014.
He employed a style called “trompe l’oeil” — French that means “deceive the eye” because that’s just what these murals do, imitating real-life scenes with photo-realistic detail.
Though Haas designed the artwork, Chicago artist Thomas Melvin did most of the painting.
“It’s all very different in character, actually, those murals,” says Melvin, a 67-year-old Chicagoan. “Some are more trompe l’oeil in terms of being playful with facades, and others are more narrative and depicting a scene.”
With the Canadian National Railway the suburb’s biggest employer, some of the images focus on trains.
“One of the murals is their yards, and another is of their engines,” Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld says.
“My favorite is the one that illustrates the Fourth of July parade,” Hofeld says. “It’s what you see when you see the parade, just all people everyone having a good time.”
Another mural, named “Greenhouse,” showcases a greenhouse with “HOMEWOOD” spelled out across the image, with a garden seeming to pop out at you.
All of the murals remain in their original locations except for one that depicted — and had been at — the old Homewood Theater, which opened in 1937 and was razed in 1992. A replica of the mural was recreated in a new spot.
- “Independence Day.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “CN Rail Yard.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Cycling Through the Years.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “1950s Diner.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Historic Dixie Highway.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Fruits of Our Labor.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Greenhouse.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Historic Gottschalk House.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Service Station.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Sweets Shop.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Homewood Theater.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Train Roundhouse.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “World of Dance.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times
- “Art Deco” and “Age of Transportation.” Annie Costabile/Sun-Times