A Central Illinois artist found therapy through a celebrated doctor from Jacksonville’s past while working to bring more color and life to downtown.
A pair of new murals were installed in Downtown Jacksonville on Thursday. Jacksonville Main Street announced the new mural as it was being installed by members of the Wall Dog community of painters who are responsible for creating each of the murals downtown.
The first new mural honors Dr. Alonzo Kenniebrew, the first African American physician in the United States to build and operate a surgical hospital, which was located at 323 West Morgan Street, in Jacksonville, from 1909 to 1927.
The hospital served thousands of patients from over 20 states and as far away as Canada, with the vast majority of them being white. Jacksonville Main Street Executive Director Judy Tighe says the mural honoring Dr. Kinniebrew is special in several ways.
“We are so excited. Dr. Alonzo Kinniebrew has such an interesting past and such a crucial part of Jacksonville history, and beyond that, medical history. For him to do what he accomplished in the age that he did and the era that he did is just phenomenal, and we are so thrilled that this is our first African-American history mural and we are thrilled that it is going up on the side of Lincoln Land Community College.”
Born to formerly enslaved parents and a later graduate and medical director of the acclaimed Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Kenniebrew was also an educator and the founder of the Jacksonville NAACP.
Longtime Wall Dog member Scott Lindley of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois painted the mural. Known as “Cornbread” in the Wall Dog artist community, Lindley created the billboard-sized mural over the last several months, all while recovering from a heart attack he suffered eight weeks ago.
Lindley says he has lost count of the number of murals he’s painted over the years, but this one will hold a special place in his heart for a number of reasons. “You know even after a heart attack it’s like this piece became my therapy. I had to prove that I could do it again.
It took me seven weeks, mornings only. I would go in and paint for maybe about four hours if I could, and then I was shot and I would have to go home and rest again. Then I would be ready to go again. I painted the portrait first because he was going to be my biggest challenge, and so I took it on and so, the doctor became my therapy.
Lindley says this mural stands out from a professional standpoint for him as well. “This was a lot of fun. I’ve actually done some historic Black figures in some other communities and this was right up my alley. I really enjoy doing projects like this and when they approached me I was like, oh this is wonderful.
All the pictures had were sepia tone or black and white and I kinda said okay we’ll use those but we’re gonna add a little bit of color. We’re going to make it look as close as it could be.”
The mural will be formally dedicated by the Jacksonville NAACP on Saturday, June 18th, during the 2022 Juneteenth Celebration on the downtown square. Polly Williams, President of the Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP says they are very excited to have a mural recognizing Dr. Kinniebrew and his surgical hospital The New Home Sanitorium which he established in 1905.
She says by 1920, the New Home Sanatorium boasted more than 60 patient rooms, three lab, and surgical suites. Dr. Alnozo Kinniebrew died in 1943 and is buried in Jacksonville East Cemetery. SIU School of Medicine honors him with the Alonzo H. Kenniebrew, MD, Forum annually.
The beloved trolley mural is now back in place after being recreated due to required repairs to the brick wall on which it was directly painted originally in 2006. This mural depicts a street scene at the northwest corner of the downtown square from 1910 when trolleys were commonplace throughout Jacksonville.
The mural is back up in its original location, at the north end of Rammelkamp Law Offices and the west end of The Farmers State Bank and Trust Company employee parking lot on West Court Street.
The mural was originally created and was also reproduced by Michael Clark of Aledo, who also assisted with both painting and installing the Dr. Kinniebrew mural.