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.”
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.