Students paint new mural to mark Junction’s 150th
By ANDREW MCGINN
The original plan for a new mural to commemorate Grand Junction’s upcoming sesquicentennial — 150th anniversary, in layman’s terms — called for it to go on the side of a building next to the community center.
That is, until word got back to the Grand Junction Lions Club about how great it looked.
The 40-foot mural paying tribute to the town’s railroad heritage will instead face Main Street, where it will greet visitors for a generation or more.
The painting is the latest in a series of murals undertaken by students at Greene County High School led by art teacher Sarah Stott.
“We went to them with a suggestion and they took it and ran with it,” said Terry Hoefle of the Grand Junction Lions Club, which commissioned the work. “It’s outstanding.”
Stott’s students most recently painted a mural on the side of Shadran celebrating Jefferson. Stott herself did one for Cooper along the Raccoon River Valley Trail.
Students also painted the concession stand at the Jefferson swimming pool and gave the Twiins Shoppe a retro makeover.
“It’s a cheap way to really get people to notice an area they may not have noticed before,” Stott said.
There was just one problem with the request for a mural in Grand Junction — how to bus students there and back and still give them enough time to paint.
“They would lose half their time getting here and back,” Hoefle said.
The mural was instead painted at the high school in Jefferson on individual, eight-foot-tall panels.
The mural will be erected on Main Street in Grand Junction no later than Memorial Day, Hoefle said, in the spot just east of the community center where some dilapidated buildings were burned down last fall.
The hole will be filled soon, he said.
In addition to commissioning the mural, the Lions Club will also light the work at night and care for it in the coming years.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make it last a long time,” Hoefle said.
The steam engine depicted on the mural harkens back to Grand Junction’s founding in 1869 at the junction of the Chicago & North Western and the Keokuk & Des Moines railways.
The dates on the steam engine have significance: 1869, for the town’s founding; 1969, for the town’s centennial; and 1932, the year the Lions Club was established.
The club covered the cost of all materials for the mural, Hoefle said.
“We were looking at something to enhance the view of Main Street,” he explained.
Arguably, Main Street in Grand Junction hasn’t looked this desolate since about 1868.
The railroad may have birthed the town, but the advent of the automobile proved to be both blessing and curse.
In the early 20th century, Grand Junction had the good fortune to be on the route for the Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first paved transcontinental thoroughfare for cars.
But when present-day U.S. Highway 30 replaced the Lincoln Highway in the late ’50s, traffic that once poured through town was reduced to a trickle.
Businesses dried up as a result.
Of the 20 students who worked on the mural, the project was especially meaningful for freshman Breanna Madison, who lives in Grand Junction.
“This is going to draw a lot of attention away from the negative,” Madison said. “This is definitely going to bring something positive to the town.”
She hopes people stop to take pictures.
“It gives kids a legacy, something they can leave behind,” Stott said. “It will be there forever.”
The fact that the mural will be located next to the town’s $1.2 million community center, dedicated in 2016, is proof that Grand Junction still has some punch left in it after all these years.
The sesquicentennial will officially be celebrated Aug. 2-4.
It’s a milestone, for sure, but good luck finding anyone who can easily pronounce “sesquicentennial.”
“We’re just calling it the 150-year celebration,” Hoefle said.