Rededication celebrates a new downtown place to be
PRINCETON — The idea for the newly refurbished Mary Uthoff Memorial Walkway in downtown Princeton all started with a spark.
That spark brought the right people together at the right time, and with the help of many community members, the space has been cleaned up, revamped and now rededicated with unique mosaic furniture that is sure to attract family and friends for years to come.
The Princeton Public Arts Commission hosted a ceremony Sunday to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to make it what it is today.
Cyndi Olson, a member of the Princeton Public Arts Commission, opened the ceremony and thanked all who played a role.
“We truly hope you will enjoy this space and spend time here in the future taking photos, drinking a cup coffee or just relaxing,” she said.
Marcie Jaggers, a member of commission, shined a light on who Mary Uthoff was to the Princeton community.
Uthoff was born in 1886 in the building that once occupied the space in the walkway.
She became an educator in the area, and in 1922, Uthoff became the first woman to appear on a Bureau County ballot. She was elected Bureau County Schools Superintendent and held the position until 1934. She also worked with the rationing board during World War II, served as secretary to the Princeton High School Board and was a member of the county’s welfare board.
On Jan. 6, 1972, Uthoff’s home in the walkway caught fire, and she was rescued by the Princeton Fire Department on a 14-degree night.
The building was a total loss and later demolished.
Uthoff died in 1974 at the age of 88. During Homestead weekend in 1977, the city dedicated the walkway to Uthoff.
“As we gather together on Homestead weekend 42 years later, let’s reflect for a moment on the woman who … spent her life in this town, teaching, volunteering and giving back,” Jaggers said.
Mayor Joel Quiram introduced Ottawa artist Susan Burton who was commissioned to create the mosaic furniture adorning the walkway. The pieces are called “Prairie Dreams.”
Burton shared about the first time she set foot in the walkway and envisioned what it would become. She also talked about the process of her artwork.
“It was no small task. You get a glimpse into a different kind of art world. It certainly takes a village to make it happen,” she said. “It’s been a learning curve for a lot of people. It has been for me, too.”
Princeton Public Arts Commission partnered with North Central Illinois Artworks on the walkway project. Executive Director Chris Coughlin shared it will be now part of the Silo Pathway — a tourism attraction aimed at luring Starved Rock State Park visitors to venture out into neighboring communities to view art pieces.
The walkway is the fourth insulation after a mural in Streator, the giant ear of corn painted on a silo in Mendota and a retro-style billboard in Cherry that celebrates the mining community.
The Princeton Public Arts Commission will receive a $500 donation for a being a member of the Silo Pathways, thanks to North Central Illinois Artworks.
Princeton native Nick Young, former correspondent at CBS News Radio in New York, read an excerpt from Eliza Steele’s “A Summer Journey in the West,” which was Burton’s inspiration for the mosaic pieces. His presentation concluded the ceremony.