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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Abraham Lincoln’s Face Decorates Old-School Parking Meters In Lincoln Square

Colorful Lincoln portraits were added to the defunct parking meters as a way to beautify the stretch of north Lincoln Avenue.

Parking meters on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square now have the face of the neighborhood's namesake.
Images courtesy Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Some of the abandoned, old-school parking meters left in Lincoln Square now have portraits of the neighborhood’s namesake painted on them.

Go ahead and lock your bike here. Honest Abe will watch over it.

The Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce teamed up with One River School of Art and Design Lincoln Square to add Abraham Lincoln’s face to 11 parking meters on Lincoln Avenue from Ainslie Street to Foster Avenue. The PaintWorks project was funded by the neighborhood’s Special Service Area property tax levy, said Ryan Warsing, neighborhood services director at the chamber. 

“We use that program to add some color to parts of the neighborhood that seem a little more neglected than the central business district,” eh said. 

Recently the chamber discussed what could be done to beautify the old-style parking meters along Lincoln Avenue.

In 2008, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley signed off on an agreement with Chicago Parking Meters LLC to lease the city’s parking meter business for 75 years in return for a one-time payment of $1.15 billion, a deal many say has haunted the city ever since.

Not long after, the city entered into a controversial agreement that made the city’s old-school parking meters obsolete thanks to a switch to digital payboxes. Although many of the vintage parking meters were removed, some were left standing, with the city encouraging cyclists to use them for bike parking.

“So we thought it would be a novel idea to turn them into little art installations that may make them pop to cyclists,” Warsing said.

The chamber reached out and the One River team — including Claire Jakubiszyn, One River’s director of education — crafted the design, said Robert Sebanc, director at One River.

Jakubiszyn said One River uses the work of contemporary artists to teach students a variety of techniques.

“That contemporary focus is a lot more engaging for our students,” she said. “So we’re not only looking at artists who have been dead for hundreds of years but also artists creating art right now.”

The focus on contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Banksy led to the idea of using repetitive stencils of Lincoln’s face on parking meters painted different colors.

One of the chamber’s key objectives is to show that Lincoln Square is “more than just the street that exists between the arches” bracketing Lincoln Avenue south of Lawrence, Warsing said.

“So having a literal representation of Lincoln across the street, north of the arches, ties together the neighborhood as a whole,” he said. 

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