Historical Figure Sparks Downtown Revival

Macomb, IL, is a little city whose leaders freely admit it’s in the middle of nowhere. These days, they’re making a big claim: The downtown is now home to the world’s largest Monopoly board.

In May, downtown leaders unveiled the completed Macombopoly. The project is a nod to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie, a Macomb native who invented the famed board game.

Macombopoly combines public art installed around Macomb Square with a virtual element. Visitors can scan a QR code to play the game on their phone. Participants can also answer trivia questions to win discounts from downtown merchants.

The physical features of the installation include oversized statues of game pieces, along with a likeness of Magie herself. Each of the square’s four corners now has a themed sculpture — a chrome stovepipe hat to the southeast, a game board to the northeast, gleaming silver dice on the southwest corner, and Magie to the northwest.

One piece of sidewalk is painted with a Go square, another with instructions to Go Directly to Jail.

“This isn’t just the world’s largest Monopoly,” said Jock Hedblade, executive director of the Macomb Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, during a dedication ceremony, “It is a legacy, a symbol of a small town’s enduring spirit shaped by the remarkable individual whose impact reverberates through history.”

More on using local history to promote downtown appears in the pages of Downtown Idea Exchange newsletter. Click below to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors.

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