Located some 200 miles northeast of Minneapolis along the Lake Superior shoreline, the sleepy little town of Ashland (www.visitashland.com/) sports an excellent collection of historic murals. Displayed on buildings in the downtown area, the 19 murals, which are included on the National Register of Historic Places, offer a glimpse into the past. Crafted by artists Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen, some of the historic Ashland murals were painted directly on buildings, while others were painted on panels in the studio and later installed outdoors.
Ashland makes a great stop on the way to or from Apostle Islands National Park (www.nps.gov/apis/index.htm), and if you’d like to spend the night, the Best Western Chequamegon is right across the street from the downtown area. And with accessible parking available near 6th and Main, and plenty of accessible sidewalks, it’s certainly possible to do a walking or rolling tour of the artwork. Although all the murals are definitely worth a stop, here are some of the local favorites.
This fun mural, which is located on the on the east wall of 612 West Main, depicts typical scenes in Ashland during the 1950s. The artists got their inspiration for this work after viewing vintage photographs from the era. The mural includes snapshots of a family picnic, some women on the beach, a man on a motorcycle, and a hamburger stand; however Meredith and Martinsen also included some famous faces from the era in the work. See if you can spot Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Lana Turner and George Reeves in the snapshots.
Located on the corner of Chapple and Main, this mural depicts three Apostle Islands lighthouses and their keepers. It was painted on panels during the winter of 2000. The work includes Devil’s island Lighthouse with Alphonse L. Gustafson, Sand Island Lighthouse with Emmanuel Lick and his family, and Outer Island Lighthouse with A. G. Carpenter. This mural was originally located on the Conoco Station on Highway 2, but it was moved to this location when that building was torn down.
Dhooge’s Store Mural
Commissioned by the Ashland Food Co-op, this mural is located at 9th and Main. It depicts a typical shopping trip around the end of the 19th century, when settlers would come into town to pick up supplies. The mural, which was painted in the studio on boards, was painted from photographs of the era. The people in the mural are Ella Reichenbach, a local who came to town to purchase produce, and William D. Leahy who went on to become an Admiral in the US Navy.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Mural
This tribute to the nearby national park is also located at 9th and Main. The piece was completed in 2016, to commemorate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. The mural features a number of scenic locations in the national park, including Devil’s Island, Stockton Island, Basswood Island, Little Sandy Bay, Hermit Island, Sand Island and Presque Isle Point. This mural was sponsored by the Friends of the Apostle Islands and the Ashland Mural Walk Committee.
Located at 4th and Main, this mural depicts some of the men and women from Ashland’s lumberjack era. Once again the artists sent out a call for photos of locals, and out of the 44 photos received they chose 22 people to include in the mural. The life size depictions of the lumberjacks include a variety of different people who worked felling trees for one of the city’s 10 sawmills back in the 1890s. The mural was completed in 2000, and it was partially funded by local donors, who now have their names engraved in the bricks in front of the work.
Last but not least, don’t miss this tribute to veterans, which was completed in 2005. It’s located on the Bay Theater Building on Vaughn Avenue and Main Street, across the street from the library. Meredith and Martinsen decided to create the piece after a passer-by stopped and offered the suggestion while they were working on another mural. Subsequently the artists advertised for photographs of veterans in the local newspaper. All of the people in this mural were taken from those photographs, and the artists tried to represent all branches of the service. According to the artists, there is no political statement behind this mural, but they both admit it was an emotional experience for them. The piece took two years to create and it was entirely funded by the local community.
A Sweet Treat at the End
After you’ve burned off a few calories on the mural walk, stop in for a sweet treat at Kravin’ Frozen Yogurt. (www.facebook.com/pages/category/Frozen-Yogurt-Shop/Kravin-Frozen-Yogurt-798473390181213/). There’s level access to this family-friendly joint that’s located near 1st and Main. The self serve restaurant includes several frozen yogurt taps and a bevy of yummy toppings. You choose how much you want of everything, and pay as you exit. It’s a perfectly delicious way to top off a visit to the historic Ashland murals.