Downtown Naperville art work to honor Freemasons
By Hilary Decent For The Sun August 19, 2011 11:50AM
Updated: November 30, 2011 12:21AM
What do actor John Wayne, President George Washington, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Mozart and Joseph Naper have in common?
The answer is they were all Freemasons, and starting in November they will all share something else. They’ll be part of the latest piece of Century Art Walk work. This piece is slated for the side of Russell’s Dry Cleaners in downtown Naperville.
The 12-foot by 18-foot painting is the vision of Neville Diamond of Euclid Lodge 65, which holds its meetings just across the street.
“I wanted to leave a mark on my year as (leader) of the lodge with something we could look back on,” Diamond said. His term ends in November. “I worked on the design with a small committee and the artist. I feel I should give our other members some kind of ownership so they are going to be involved in thinking up a name for it. Other service organizations are depicted around the town and I felt we should be also.”
The piece will be painted on three signboards by local artist Marianne Lisson Kuhn. Unlike the mural she is currently working on, “Naperville Loves a Parade,” it won’t be seen until completion because she will be working on it at her home. It is likely to be revealed in a special ceremony sometime in November.
The painting will depict George Washington with the American flag on one side, with Joseph Naper and the lodge building at 34 Jefferson Ave. on the other. Masonic symbolism will include a black and white squared carpet with a tessellated border plus a square and compass. An eye with the letter G representing God with the sun’s rays is the worldwide symbol of masonry.
They’ll also be two lists, one of famous people who were masons, the other of well-known Masonic Napervillians from the city’s past.
“In those days membership of the temple was never as public as it is now,” Diamond said. “People may not know that so many of our founding fathers were Freemasons.”
Historic Naperville figures listed include furniture maker and undertaker William J. Beidelman; city father Lewis Ellsworth; World War I veteran Judd Kendall; George Martin, owner of the Martin Mitchell mansion; James L. Nichols for whom the Nichols Library is named and Nicholas Stenger of the old Stenger Brewery in the city.
Diamond said the idea that the Freemasons are a secret society is outdated.
“We are not secret anymore,” he said. “Masons are advertised in every town in the U.S. and around the world. You always know what time they meet and where. There is no secret about the symbols we use either. We are a fraternal organization. It’s not about networking, it’s about fellowship. We’re happy to show our lodge building to visitors and are extremely proud of it.”
For someone who often finds herself scaling brick walls to paint, Lisson Kuhn says this project will be a lot easier.
“Painting on signboard means I can work inside and the painting won’t be distorted by bricks,” she said.
Russell Breitweiser, owner of Russell’s Dry Cleaner’s, said he is pleased to see something attractive going up on the wall.
“Until 1995 my parents owned this business and my mom didn’t want any murals on it,” he said. “Now I’m in charge I’m happy to cooperate with all involved.”
The new artwork will be one of five to be added to the Century Art Walk this year. The others are two at the Van Buren parking deck dedicated to Waubonsie Valley and Naperville North high schools, the “Naperville Loves a Parade” mural downtown in an alley off Main Street between Jackson and Jefferson avenues and a concrete whale at Highlands Elementary School.