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Main Street mural paints a picture of early Seymour

By Rick Cohler

SEYMOUR – The story of early Seymour is now visible on a large mural just off Main Street created by Kelly Meredith of Butternut in Ashland County, who has painted numerous murals around the region. Kurt Boettcher, a board member of the Seymour Historical Society, saw her work in Ashland while watching a show on Wisconsin Public Television.

“That’s when I said I want to see that because I noticed how detailed the work was,” Boettcher said. “We researched it a little bit and thought it would be good for Seymour. It turned out better than I even thought it would.”

People depicted on the Seymour Historical Mural are, left to right: George and Mary Falck, who built the Falck Hotel in 1898 and operated it for 32 years. It is now the Seymour Hotel; William F. Cirkel, who operated a barrel factory and was a state assemblyman and mayor from 1882-1884; Hattie Graham, who operated Graham’s store; Robert Kuehne, one of the largest livestock shippers in the state; James Dean, who came to Seymour in 1877 and was a hardware store owner and president of the Fair Association; Philip Muehl who came to Seymour in 1867 and was and built a funeral home and furniture store; Peter Tubbs, first postmaster; James Veitch, who served as mayor from 1926-1934; William Michelstetter, president of Seymour State Bank; Francis Dittmar, real estate developer who also served as city clerk for 15 years, was on the school board for 25 years and was postmaster for 17 years; Dr. L.A. LeMieux, pioneer businessman who opened a drug store in 1873; Dr. James Hittner, medical doctor from 1882-1938; Frederick Ohlrogge, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church from 1897-1939; John Stewart, owner of Seymour Flour Mill from 1884-1901 and justice of the peace; August Wolk, chief of police, street commissioner and alderman who served the city from its incorporation in 1879 to 1923; Nick Kitzinger, “The Harness Man” who supplied area farmers with harnesses for 40 years; Fred Piehl, part owner of Miller-Piehl Company, which was founded in 1885 and built a number of area businesses; and F.W. Axley, principal of Seymour High School from 1899-1934. Joy Casper Photo

Meredith spent many years as an art teacher before venturing into murals.

“I did my first professional mural in Ashland,” she said. “After that, I was still teaching, so I would do murals in the summer and teach the rest of the year. By 2003 I was able to quit my job and paint murals full time.”

She now has 128 murals in communities around the state.

Meredith said her murals are largely client-driven.

“The client tells me what they want depicted; what is the goal, what is the theme and what is the purpose,” she said. “(Boettcher’s) goal was to thank the community for the support of his business for many years. That’s very interesting; I don’t usually get that for the driving force for a project. Kurt gave me all the photos of the buildings and the people. As the project progressed I would send him pictures and he could say ‘how about a horse cart here’ or something like that.”

Meredith said she makes the ultimate aesthetic decisions, though, to make sure too many suggestions don’t clutter the piece.

Meredith started the project in early February and wrapped up work in April.

The mural is on 4×8-foot panels of aluminum with a two-foot panel underneath for support. The overall dimensions add up to 64 feet long by 10 feet high.

Twenty-one of Seymour’s founders are portrayed, with the addition of two women who were placed in the painting because there were very few women in business in the late 1800s.

A little boy is also portrayed as a paper boy standing next to a painting of H.J. Van Vuren, who owned the Seymour Press newspaper for many years.

A stand with an explanatory plaque is planned.

“We wanted to have a cross section of what Seymour was between 1875 and 1920 so we have various occupations represented,” Seymour Historical Society President Bill Collar said.

While the buildings on the mural are not arranged exactly like they were on Main Street, the individual buildings are depictions of historical structures.

“We wanted to get buildings of some uniqueness from an architectural point of view,” he said. Non-Main Street buildings include the old high school and the Hotel Florence.

Prominent on the mural is the depiction of an old hearse from the Muehl Funeral Home, which has its own story.

“Near the end of World War II, the hearse was stored behind the Seymour Hotel,” Boettcher said. “Some guys got into it one night and they made dummies of Mussolini, Hitler and Tojo. They put the dummies in the hearse and set it by the hotel. Then they went and hit all the different ‘establishments’ in town, and after doing that they celebrated the end of the war by setting it on fire in the middle of Main Street.”
Kurt Boettcher’s father, Norman, joined the Muehl Funeral Home in 1952, and it is now known as Muehl-Boettcher Funeral Home.

Kurt has been with the business since 1982.

When it came time to install the mural on the building, three windows on the top of the painting needed to be bricked up in order to improve the appearance.

Boettcher said Schuh Construction of Seymour came forward and bricked up the windows, working into the evening to meet the deadline.

Meredith said she enjoyed working on the Seymour mural.

“It was fun,” she said. “Usually I don’t meet my clients. Ninety-nine percent of the time everything is done by email, but Kurt came up here twice which is actually nice because we could sit and have a long conversation. Bill Collar was very helpful as well. Whenever I needed additional photos or information he was right on it,” she said.

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