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New mural depicts Mattoon family's history of military service

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MATTOON — A new mural honoring military service across multiple generations of a Mattoon family has been put into place on a downtown Mattoon wall in time for Memorial Day.

The centerpiece of this 3,000-square-foot mural at House Brothers Tavern imagines William Lincoln House, who founded this bar in 1905, at the counter alongside seven members of his family who served in the military from the Civil War through the war in Iraq. The mural also includes images of each of those seven veterans during their service years.

Current owner and operator Kelsa House Bartels commissioned artist Peyton Morrow of Mattoon last year to create this mural on the west exterior wall of House Brothers Tavern, 2009 Western Ave.

"I wanted to do something to honor everyone in the family who had worked in the tavern and was in the military," Bartels said.

Mural family

Bill House, at center, is pictured with his son, Keegan House, and daughter, Kelsa House Bartels, on Monday next to a new mural on the side of their family's House Brothers Tavern in Mattoon. The mural depicts the multiple generations of their family that have served in the military.

Morrow, who is pursuing his master's in art at Eastern Illinois University, painted the giant flag that serves as the mural's backdrop last fall and then went to work over the winter in his Mattoon studio on the figures in the mural. Morrow said he used photos provided by the family and historical research to bring the figures to life. He painted the figures on sections of parachute cloth canvas that he affixed to the wall this spring.

Family history stretching back to William Henry House serving in the Union Army cavalry during the Civil War is depicted in the mural. This cavalryman, who is shown astride a horse at the top left corner of the mural, is the father of the tavern's founder, William Lincoln House. Records in the Mattoon Public Library's Local History Center report that William Henry House was the proprietor of the Pennsylvania House Hotel and that on Sept. 6, 1862 he joined Company H of the 123rd Illinois Infantry as a 2nd lieutenant.

The founder's son, Frederick House, served with the Army in the trenches of the Western Front during World War I, as seen in a mural image of him in his doughboy uniform. Bill House of Mattoon said his grandfather suffered a mustard gas attack in the trenches and his lungs troubled him ever after that.

Frederick House's sons Bob, Harold W., and Fred L. House are also depicted in the mural during their service in World War II. Bill House said his father, Bob, served with the Navy in the South Pacific; his uncle, Harold, served with the Army in the Battle of the Bulge and other battles in Western Europe; and his uncle, Fred, served with the Army Air Forces as a B-17 bomber pilot. The three brothers are shown in action in the middle of the mural.

Mural artist

Artist Peyton Morrow of Mattoon is pictured this spring using a boom lift to put finishing touches on the new House family military history mural on the west wall of House Brothers Tavern in Mattoon.

The right side of the mural depicts its two living veterans — Bill House, who served in the Army in 1971-1973 in West Germany; and his son, Keegan House, who served two tours of duty with the Army in Iraq in the mid-2000s. Bill House is shown standing in front of the Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg and Keegan House is shown guarding a building in Iraq.

Keegan House said he looks forward to seeing parades on Western Avenue pass by the completed mural, especially on Veterans Day when the tavern hosts its annual gathering for veterans.

"It will look really cool," Keegan House said of this mural that can be seen from blocks away. His sister added, "I think the best view is when you are coming down Western Avenue and you see it."

As a Mattoon native, Morrow said he was glad to have the opportunity to create a mural that depicts the history of a local family and that will be seen by so many community members.

"It's pretty cool having artwork on such an established street that I grew up driving up and down," Morrow said.

Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud


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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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