DOWNTOWN — Driving west on Congress out of the city, there's a can't-miss Blackhawks mural inside the broken-windowed, vacant Old Main Post Office.
The four-paneled mural, held to the wall by hammered-in wood, has been a constant sight at the former post office since 2010, when the Blackhawks were in the midst of winning their first Stanley Cup since 1961 and their first of three over a six-year span.
As Mayor Rahm Emanuel moves to have the city seize the property at 433 W. Van Buren St., the people behind the mural — actually one of three painted by Chris Toepfer — want it saved and are telling its story for the first time.
Justin Breen explains how he's wondered about the Blackhawks mural for quite some time:
"I'm glad it's still there. It warms my heart," said Joanna Kappele, who came up with the idea to put the mural inside the post office in 2010. "And we'd like to get them back."
From 2009-14, Kappele was the Chicago coordinator for International Property Developers, the company that purchased the 2.5-million-square-foot post office in 2009. Kappele, a huge Blackhawks fan who lives in Little Italy, said she "begged" International Property Developers' owner Bill Davies to have the mural painted and put inside the building, which had been vacant since 1996 and has seen a series of failed development plans.
Kappele met Toepfer, who is known for "making buildings that are vacant not look vacant" with artwork, through then-Ald. Bob Fioretti. Toepfer made three murals: the one that remains visible on the building's east side; a second in 2010 that was eventually taken down and given to one of Kappele's friends; and a third in 2013 that was placed on the building's west side. The third mural was taken down, Kappele said, and is now "lying in a heap of dust somewhere on the third floor" of the post office building.
Toepfer, of Wicker Park, said all the painting was done on site, utilizing the discarded panels that were supposed to be used to board up windows.
"The building, to me, there's a lot of waste that went on there," Toepfer said. "It was just a squandering of a lot of things. It's interesting that we made artwork out of panels from materials that were just left inside the building. A lot of waste there, but an interesting place."
Toepfer's son William, who helped with the paintings, lives in the South Loop, so Toepfer drives under his artwork "quite a bit." Kappele, who, like Toepfer, had never been interviewed about the mural, said she loves driving west on Congress and seeing the work — and knowing her role in its creation.
"I love it. It's nice that it remains there," she said. "It's a great painting. Too bad the rest of the building didn't come along with it."
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