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LaPorte history? The wall says it all
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LaPorte history? The wall says it all

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LAPORTE — Artists are putting the wraps on a new mural downtown depicting life in LaPorte.

The mural, expected to be finished by Labor Day, faces Plaza 618 at Lincolnway and Monroe Street.

Work began June 10 on a 108-foot long brick wall of a building occupied by As Times Goes By, an antique and clock repair store.

Robert and Britney Frazier of LaPorte have watched the mural evolve from the beginning on their numerous trips to the plaza's splash pad with their two daughters, Harmony, 9, and Serenity, 4.

‘’I like the colors and how bright it is,’’Britney Frazier said.

Tom Torluemke of Dyer is the lead artist who came up with the design after six months of researching the history of LaPorte and meeting with community members on what they wanted to see in the graphics.

He’s assisted by Bill Pozzo of Valparaiso.

During their 28-year partnership, the men have created other murals throughout the Midwest, including one about twice as long near Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Anchoring the mural in LaPorte are near full body images of early industrialists Herbert W. Fox, Edward A. Rumely along with Hallett H. Kessler, co-founder of the old Kessler’s Furniture store at Lincolnway and Indiana Avenue more than 100-years ago.

Rumely Co. was a leading producer of tractors sold worldwide during the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to LaPorte County historical records.

Clothing rolled out of the Fox Woolen Mills from 1864 to 1930, historical records show.

In 1930, the second generation Fox family donated the Civic Auditorium the city still uses for major events, along with the 100-acre Fox Park beside Clear Lake in 1913.

Depicted beneath them is James Burden, director of the LaPorte City Band for 45 years before retiring in 2012.

An image of Ken Schreiber, the late head coach of seven LaPorte High School state championship baseball teams, is grouped in a smaller display of other notable residents.

Frederick Mennen, inventor of Jiffy Pop Popcorn in 1958, is represented by a visual of popcorn popping near the middle of the huge, colorful painting.

Unfortunately, Torluemke said there wasn’t enough room for images of other famous or renowned LaPorteans like former Oakland As owner Charlie Finley and William Scholl, founder of Dr. Scholl’s footwear.

"There was so many accomplished people here that certain people even though they made a big contribution couldn’t fit,” he said.

Other images depict a family building a sand castle at Stone Lake beach, water skiing on Pine Lake and a woman riding an old-fashioned bicycle with the historic nine-sided red barn on U.S 35 as a backdrop.

Thaddeus Cutler, a member of the city’s Visual Arts Board, said the cost of the mural - more than $50,000 - was funded by a grant from the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone, proceeds from the annual Mayor’s Ball and other donations.

He said the goal is drawing people and enhancing the experience downtown improved upon by façade improvements to more than 20 storefronts the past three years.

"Everything is just visually looking better and I think the beauty of the visual arts component is this isn’t just an abstract shaped mural. This is actually, literally the story of LaPorte,” he said.

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