July 14, 2011

Editor on the Run

My Visual Journal

Author: Emily Potts

Topics: Branding Identity, Random

I've lived in Peoria, IL, for nearly 19 years, and I rarely take the time to notice my surroundings. So I decided to venture out and photograph some of the more unusual sites in town—in areas, I don't usually go. This is my visual journal.

Vanna Whitewall

Vanna Whitewall has been greeting motorists at Peoria Plaza Tire on Washington Street in Peoria, since 1968. This is an older part of town, which unfortunately is now mostly occupied by vacant buildings—the businesses either closed or moved north, to the "better" part of town. But Vanna still stands tall and proud and adds some much needed color to this otherwise lifeless area.

Photo: Joe Hardenbrook, Nov. 2009

In the warmer months she sports a bikini. The busty fiberglass vamp weighs 450 lbs and stands at 17.6 feet tall. Some may say this piece of "art" is tacky, but I think it's a great relic that captures a moment in time. It's rumored that she was modeled after Jackie Kennedy.

She was manufactured in Venice, Calif., in the 1960s and crowned "Miss Uniroyal." Before the store's 20 year anniversary in 1988, Vanna underwent a makeover. Local body shop, D's Paint and Body Shop, repainted and restored her with the help of a local cosmetologist who helped blend the colors for her makeup, hair and nails. She was then placed on top of wooden planter because motorists had a tendency to back into her shins (ouch!).

Hubcap House

Another classic on the south end, which unfortunately no longer exists, was the Hubcap House. In 1990, Ron Innes open this niche business and caught the attention of every passerby after nailing a hubcap to every square inch of the exterior. There were some protests from the city which said the building violated a sign ordinance (no sign can cover more than 20% of a business), but Innes countered saying it was wall covering, not a sign. He also secured the signatures of more than 1,000 people supporting the Hubcap House and he prevailed.

Hubcap house photos: Michael R. Allen, May 2004

Innes died in 2004, so his business partners sold the building. It was leveled in 2005, and is now a parking lot. It's sad to see these landmarks go, but time marches on, for better or worse.

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