The Story of Glen Helen — Chapter III

Chapter I     Chapter II

[In which we learn about Helen herself, although the author makes no mention of the major memorial collection of post-Impressionist and modern art at the Art Institute of Chicago for which Helen Birch Bartlett was known nationally.]

III

The closest relationship existed between Hugh Birch and his daughter from her babyhood. Her crib stood beside his bed, and whenever her sleep was broken her little hand crept through the bars and found refuge and comfort in his. As soon as she was old enough, she accompanied him on rambles over the farm at Highland Park near Chicago (now the Bobolink Golf Club), that he had bought and was beautifying. During these walks he taught her to recognize and love the plants and trees and birds about her. How much they meant in her life is shown in her poems, which have been published in a volume entitled “:Capricious Winds.” Many of her poems have not been collected. She wrote them with great spontaneity and gave them as greetings to her friends. The facsimiles here printed are of two she wrote for her father.

Helen Birch’s life with her numerous girl friends in Chicago and   elsewhere was unusually interesting. Catherine Eddy, daughter of Abby Spencer Eddy and afterwards the wife of Senator Albert J. Beveridge, grew up with Helen, and the two cousins were like sisters throughout her life.

With her mother and father, Helen had travelled extensively through Europe, England,and the adjacent islands. Especially enjoyable was a journey to the Canary Islands with her father, ending with ten days in the Madeiras, and then through Spain and Portugal to Paris where her mother was awaiting their arrival.

In the winter of 1893 Hugh Birch went to Florida. At that time the railroad ended at Titusville at the head of Indian River. Further south and west the state was almost a wilderness. By boat and on foot he explored most of the wild coast to the south, looking for a desirable location for a winter home. Wisely he chose the ocean front near Fort Lauderdale as preferable to any other part of the miles of shore.

Hugh Birch has a sixth sense about land. He seems instinctively to recognize beauty, to know how to bring it out. He took his little daughter with him and she first saw Florida land in its primitive beauty and glory. After that they enjoyed it together. Even when her mother wanted her to go to Europe for the opera season the little girl always stipulated that before sailing she was to have her winter with her father in Florida. Their home, facing the Atlantic Ocean with a mile and a half of beach, is full of the evidence of the love that she and her father have lavished on it.

In 1919 Helen Birch married Frederick Clay Bartlett, an artist, intimately connected with the art growth of Chicago and Illinois. They spent their honeymoon traveling in Japan, China, and the Philippines. He had passed years in study and travel in France and Germany. Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett were wonderfully alike in their tastes and desires—lovers of music and painting in their many forms.

 

In the winter of 1924-1925 Mr. Bartlett with his wife and his son by a former marriage invited his father-in-law to a very memorable and delightful trip to Venice and through Italy to Florence, the hill towns, Rome, Naples, Capri, and then to Jerusalem, and to Cairo, Egypt. There they chartered a steamer and went up the Nile to the Assuan Dam. This trip culminated with a hurried trip to Genoa, Milan, and the Riviera and home to a summer residence in Beverly, Massachusetts,—a most memorable journey, to be treasured in the hearts of the living as the happiest experience in the lives of them all.

 

Helen’s death occurred in 1925. A friend, Janet Fairbank, wrote, “There is always something triumphant in the tragedy of untimely death. Helen Bartlett died too young, but nevertheless she lived life to its peak. For her there were no experiences of anticlimax—no adjustments—no capitulations. She died at her life’s blazing noon, and she had never seen a sunset which did not seem to her fairer than the dawn.”

A woman so universally loved—so truly educated and so wholesomely normal, at home in several spoken languages, in music, in art, and in the higher art of touching the spiritual best in the people who met her, could not be better honored than by the lovely stretch of well-watered woodland that her father has given in her name to the young people of Antioch College. It was a fine sense of discrimination which has associated her memory with this region of ever varying beauty and dignity.

 

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Know Your Town — Part 2

The first section (pages 4-7) of this League of Women Voters publication (covers and introductory pages shown  in a previous post) gives a brief history of Yellow Springs.

There is a claim made here for Yellow Springs providing a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, but that is problematic. Because of the clandestine nature of the Underground Railroad operation, there aren’t the usual sorts of documents available to substantiate such claims. Perhaps the efforts of contributors to the Yellow Springs 365 Project’s Encyclopedia will turn up a letter, journal or ledger which will settle the question unequivocally.



Long before the days of the mound builder, the war cry of the Indian and the ring of the pioneer axe, the Yellow Spring began building its record in the rocks. The story told by the gigantic graveyards nearby indicate that this area was once the bed of an ocean lagoon. As the water receded, rushing torrents carved the great gorges and wide valleys that later were covered with the giant glaciers of the ice ages. It seems likely that the large iron-bearing spring, which has given the village of Yellow Springs its name, was formed at the time of the last glacier. Historical legacies of this area’s early inhabitants remain in abundance. Tecumseh, chief of the Shawnee Indians, made frequent visits to the springs, and George Washington owned land near here. The “portals to the present” were opened in 1803 when Ohio became a state and Lewis Davis, hearing from the Indians of the great yellow spring and beautiful surrounding countryside, built the first cabin in the area. As early as 1805 the “medicinal benefits” of the spring were discovered by Davis and others and much of the early growth of the town can be attributed to its reputation as a watering place and health resort.

As an energetic young nation moved restlessly west, parts of its strength and virility were left in the towns and villages that sprang up in the Ohio wilderness. Gradually, a rough frontier became a civilization. In this area, the springs attracted many diverse groups. Fashionable parties arrived from Cincinnati and further afield by stagecoach and, in 1846, by rail. In 1825 an experimental utopian community—the Owenites—settled here until some un-utopian quarrels dispersed the group. In 1827 Elisha Mills bought the springs and surrounding lands (most of which is today Yellow Springs) and erected a hotel at the site. Some 50 years later, William Neff built a four story hotel and 125 horse stable on these same grounds, remains of which are still visible in the Glen.

Judge William Mills, Elisha Mills’ son, became literally the founder of Yellow Springs. Looking past calendars, he conceived of a planned village with streets, parks, schools, and churches which even today, a century later, has not changed markedly. After personally persuading the Pennsylvania Railroad to swing through Yellow Springs, he offered 20 acres and $20,000 to the Christian Church if they would establish their college here. This was the deciding factor that brought Antioch College to Yellow Springs in 1852. Mills was also instrumental in persuading the internationally famous, “Father of public education”—Horace Mann—to be the first president of the institution. At that time, the main building of the college and two dormitories were erected and these buildings are still in use.

From the time of its inception, the college has formed a nucleus around which much of the social and business activities of the town revolve. In 1920, Arthur Morgan became president of Antioch, and with the help of a large loan from Charles F. Ketttering and others, revitalized the school. His philosophy of education and interest in small communities has had a far reaching influence which have added a richness and variety to the activities of the village. In 1929 Hugh Taylor Birch, a former student of the college, presented Glen Helen—a 900 acre tract of ground including the springs—to the college. This area today, in combination with other more recently acquired land and adjoining recreation areas, comprises one of the finest outdoor education centers in Ohio and stands as a living monument to beauty in its purest form.

The buckboards that once creaked noisily down the rutted muddy streets of Yellow Springs have long since given way to the concrete and macadam of the 20th century. But the spirit and individuality of the frontiersman remains a hallmark of the community. Yellow Springs is not just a place . . . it is a fundamental and constantly progressing philosophy. At one time a way-station in the underground railroad, it was one of the first Ohio towns to desegregate its schools—not only as an expression of its recognition of all human dignity, but as a functioning proof of a changing and improving way of life. The Yellow Springs of today is a constantly advancing village—from its manager-council form of government to its interest in industry and culture. It is a stimulating community always aiming higher and looking farther in all its phases . . . industrial, educational, cultural, and recreational. It is a small town in its innate friendliness, a young town in its vision and while proud of its past it has no preoccupation with it. It is, rather, a vital, exciting, and constant working vision of the future.


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From the Antioch Bookplate Archives — 1980s Part 5

This group of bookplates demonstrates some of the themes and kinds of images popular in the early 1980s.

B-172 (by staff artist Linda Nelson added another design in the fantasy lineup. B-180 and B-181 were also in the fantasy theme, in this case licensed from American Greetings.

B-173, B-174 and B-175 focused on cute animals, with the last two licensed from another greeting card company – Gibson Greetings.

B-176 picked up on the ‘I [heart]…” simple graphic which started to become popular in the early 1980s.

Antioch Publishing was still providing imprinted bookplates to mail order customers, so the bookplates illustrated were shown with names imprinted to let customers know the style of font available. As before, the names used were all employees or relatives of employees.

 

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History Is Not Limited to a Century Ago

The Yellow Springs News this week printed the obituary of a remarkable women, Anna Clara Gee Blackwell-Hagans.

Coincidentally, a newspaper clipping was discovered in the Historical Society’s archives featuring her grandson’s early accomplishment. (Although the date of the article – April 22, 2005 – was handwritten on the clipping, the source was  not.)

(Text of article)

Yellow Springs High School senior Kyle Truitt has won national honors in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of 2005. His black and white photograph entitled “Sandman” which in January received a gold award in the regional contest was recently awarded gold at the national level of the competition in New York last week. This year, approximately 50,000 middle and high school artists and writers earned recognition through the regional contests across the US. Of these, only 1200 awards were bestowed on the national level and is currently completing his third year of photography with Melina Elum. Other YSHS students who were chosen to compete in the nationals this year include senior Austen Willis in the photography portfolio division, and sophomore Sonny Thomas in film/video.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have conducted a national assessment annually since 1923 to reward the creative achievements of students in grades 7-12 and to recognize excellence in teaching. Even though only a small number achieve national recognition, all students and teachers participating in The Awards contribute to a nationwide discussion about creativity and an annual assessment of excellence. The Awards have helped nurture eight decades of promising talent by providing recognition, cash awards, and college scholarships.

In a statement issued by Scholastic board of directors, “Each year, the works submitted offer an insight in the issues and ideas that are important to teenagers and provide an inspiring preview of what our nation’s cultural landscape will look like in the future. We thank your teachers for helping you develop you creativity, and we salute you for your efforts.”

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The Story of Glen Helen — Chapter II

[Covers the life of Hugh Taylor Birch in Chicago after he was no longer an Antioch student]

II

Hugh left Antioch regretfully without his diploma, and arrived in Chicago with seventeen dollars in his pocket. In a day or two he had found Professor Orton’s sister. She was an angel in disguise—she made him promise then and there to come every Sunday for dinner. He also located Mr. Anthony. When he presented his letter Anthony bluffly asked if he knew how to work. Hugh said, “Give me a trial.” He was given a chair and a small desk and told that he could have the use of the large library, but would be expected to work for the firm without pay for at least a year.

Hugh went to work, and he found plenty to do from morning till night. In the evenings he was free to study law. At the end of the year tth members of the firm were well pleased with their student. They discovered that their student knew all the judges personally and that most of them invited him to their homes. They found that he knew how to make friends and keep them, and that he did enough work for their clients to pay for his food and clothing. They generously gave him six dollars a week for the ensuing year. After the first year the greatest hardship had passed and Hugh was on the road to success. Soon after his arrival in Chicago, his dear friend, Mrs. Orton, took him to visit her intimate friends, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin P. Spencer. They had attended the church in Gowanda, New York, presided over by the father of Professor Orton of Antioch.

There were two daughters in the Spencer family, Abby and Delia. These young ladies at once became the firm friends of Hugh Birch, and to their friendship and that of their parents he attributed in large measure his happiness and success in the long years since. Delia, afterwards Mrs. Marshall Field, lives to know of Glen Helen. Always the same kind and loving friend to Hugh Birch, she rejoices in the memorial.


The newspaper story of Mr. Birch’s graduation.

Gets His Degree 60 Years After School Days End

YELLOW SPRINGS, O. — In 1869 a handful of students at Antioch won their degrees and were graduated. It was a happy commencement, for it signified that although a great civil war had shaken the little institution to its foundations and almost caused it to perish when all the young men students left their classes to enlist, victory had come at last and the college would go on.

For one young man, however, there was a tinge of sadness. Hugh T. Birch, who had undertaken to finish the four year course in three years, could not be graduated because he lacked completion of just one required course. Working his way through college, acting as captain and pitcher on a victorious baseball team, and doing four years of college work in three, were just a little too much.

SUCCESSFUL ATTORNEY

He left for Chicago, studied law, and became one of the successful attorneys of that city.

Now, 60 years afterward, the faculty of a renewed and vigorous Antioch has voted to award Birch his degree—the bachelor of science degree as of the class of 1869. The college has called education an “adventure,” and which makes it so by providing its students’ well planned contacts with the realities of life, has seen that in this man’s life the requirements have been fulfilled many times over.

Dean O. L. Inman, in presenting Birch’s name to the Antioch faculty, pointed out that it was supposed to grant him, not an honorary degree, but a bachelor’s degree, in recognition of intellectual work actually achieved and verified.

“I’ve been in Glen Helen with Mr. Birch,” declared the dean, “and I stand ready to say that he knows his natural history. If he could not have met the requirements in 1869, he certainly can now. I only wish all students of today could be depended on to retain, 60 years hence, so large a part of what they have learned.”

Birch has continued his education through the years, and possesses a rare knowledge of astronomy, entomology, botany, ornithology, and geology, as well as a mastery of his chosen field, the law.

Recently Birch gave the college one of the most beautiful tracts in Ohio, 700 acres adjoining the present campus, which has been named Glen Helen in memory of his daughter.


Hugh was becoming well established and was flourishing in his law studies with the firm of Hervey, Anthony and Galt. Then in the great Chicago fire in 1871 he lost everything he possessed including a collection of two thousand beetles and other insects collected in the Glen under the instruction of Professor Orton. But by the spring and summer of 1872 the way seemed brighter, all were working with a renewed vigor, and life was happier.

In the autumn of 1872 Hugh was invited by the State’s Attorney to become the first assistant State’s Attorney, and he occupied that position very successfully to the end of 1876—four years of excellent experience in preparation for his later life.

Towards the end of the term in the State’s Attorney office he met his future wife at the home of her uncle, Franklin F. Spencer. Maria root was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Francis H. Root of Buffalo, New York. Hugh Birch and Maria Root were married in 1876 and made their home in Chicago until the death of Mrs. Birch in the summer of 1913.

Three children were born. Carlton died in infancy. Hugh T. Birch, Jr., graduated at Andover in 1896. Entering Yale in the fall of the same year he graduated in 1900, and died in Mexico during the summer of 1907. After the death of Mrs. Birch, Helen and her father were left alone in the home at 1912 Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

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More Union Schoolhouse

The YS Historical Society has two other group photos of students at the Union Schoolhouse in addition to the 1908 one previously shared. One is undated, but from the clothing, earlier than 1908 and before the school was integrated, and the other is from 1914.

In honor of Black History month the Historical Society has provided the front vestibule window display on the history of Yellow Springs schools at the Yellow Springs Community Library, including the following Yellow Springs News article from May of 2003 giving the history of integration in the schools:

Yellow Springs Schools Integrated in 1887

When the Union School House opened in 1872, it was meant to house under one roof all the schoolchildren in Yellow Springs. Everyone except for black children.

Most local black children weren’t publicly educated at all until an African American school opened in 1871. Even in Ohio, it took legislators 22 years after the Civil War to get it straight, when the State approved a law desegregating public schools in Ohio.

As early as 1804, the State began passing the Black Laws that edged away at blacks’ civil rights, first to enter Ohio tax free, then to establish residency and to vote. According to a student paper written in the 1960s by Antioch college student Hugh Wylie, by 1831, blacks were prohibited by law from attending public school.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the 19th century, the public school system was fragmented at best until 1825, when Miami Township divided into four school districts and relegated part of the tax fund for building schools. That year the first school in the township was built on Clifton Pike, which today is State Route 343, after which 10 others gradually sprouted in other districts in the village and the township.

In 1853 the Ohio legislature passed a law requiring local school boards to establish schools for black students when the number of black children exceeded 30. Almost two decades later Yellow Springs established its first school for black students on the south end of Dayton Street. Then in 1874 the school was relocated in the old village school on the southeast corner of West South College and High Streets.

Wylie reported that the late News editor Kieth Howard recalled interviewing a black woman who attended an all-white rural school on Bryan Park Road sometime in the 1870s. Though technically it may have been illegal, exceptions may have been made for a few black students in more remote areas. The woman remembered being ignored by the other students at first. However, she said she became imminently more popular when the other children saw her prowess on the baseball field.
Things began to change for schoolchildren in the village around the time of the Civil War. Under the leadership of Benjamin Arnett, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who served as a State Representative from Greene County, the Ohio Unionist Party gradually began repealing the Black Laws. Arnett, who lived in Wilberforce, introduced the bill in 1887 repealing the last of the Black Laws that would make racial segregation of public schools illegal.

Yellow Springs resident Lucy Wolford, who was a student at the Union School House school in the 1880s, told Wylie, “I’ve seen Bishop Arnett many times. When he got in a buggy there wasn’t any room left.”

A powerful black man representing a white constituency, Arnett got his repeal passed on Feb. 22, 1887, but he didn’t stop there. He and a Reverend Jackson traveled around the area educating communities about the bill’s provisions. Jackson came to speak in Yellow Springs a month after the bill’s passage, likely influencing local resident Silas Wills to campaign throughout the village in support of the cause. Several years before, Wills had been denied his right to vote, legally given to blacks in 1870, and had bought property in the village with the proceeds from a lawsuit he won against the State. Still devoting energy toward equal treatment of blacks in the village, Wills, on the eve of integration in town, went to all the black homes urging parents to send their kids to the Union School House.

Many were afraid, his son, J. Walter Wills, told Antiochiana in an article in 1964, but “Silas kept saying that the time had come when a man had to stop being a Negro and had to become an American. Nobody can take your children through the door of that school but you. If you don’t do it now, you may never get the chance again.”

Wills said that on the first day of school in September 1887, his father stood at the door and counted the number of black students that came. All of them attended school that day, he said.

Wolford, who was white, and a black man named Will Henry, had slightly differing memories as students during those early days of integration, according to Wylie’s paper. Wolford recalled a general sense of incredulity among Yellow Springs citizens that integration would actually come to fruition. A.E. Humphreys, editor of the Yellow Springs Review, wrote an editorial anticipating that some families would pull their students out of the school in protest.

The paper published another editorial at the beginning of the school year: “Young America’s fathers and mothers are watching this opening with special interest and not a little anxious. The striking of the word ‘black’ from the Ohio Statutes has removed the obstacle that prevented Colored children attending the White schools, but it did not remove the prejudice that exists in the minds of white parents against mixed schools. . . we can only hope for the best and see what we shall see.”

But Wolford insisted that integration in the school happened without incident. Boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the room. The boys played together at recess, though the black girls played separately from the white girls, she recalled. The boys shared a bathroom, but the black and white girls had separate toilets. “Don’t let anyone tell you we had trouble like in Little Rock and those places,” Wolford said. None of the students left the school in protest of the new arrangement, she said.

Henry recalled that on the first day of classes all the black children were sent home because a local minister and two school board members were protesting at the school. He also recalled that black students had to sit behind the white students, at the back of the room. But he concurred with Wolford that, in his memory, none of the students objected so much that they had to leave the school.

Wolford’s husband, J.N. Wolford, a former editor and publisher of the News, remembered hearing that Cedarville schools integrated smoothly, except that the blacks were taught in a separate crowded room for several years, according to Wylie.

Bessie Totten, the late curator of Antiochiana, remembered a cousin who attended the Union School House at the time of integration had been stoned by a group of black boys, and that there were some people who just didn’t accept the change, according to Wylie. Some also felt that integration put black teachers out of a job, and that mixed schools weren’t acceptable unless black teachers were hired.

Lauren Heaton, YS News, May 2003

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Union Schoolhouse Students Circa 1908

The clothes may be different, but the expressions would likely be the same today…

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Know Your Town — Part 1

Several publications showcasing Yellow Springs have already been presented on this blog (see listings for An Adventuring Community — The Story of Our Work and Our Town and Why They Came on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” tab above).

This post introduces another publication, this time from the League of Women Voters. The original was undated and 6″ x 9″ (shown here slightly larger for improved legibility).

Front Cover

Back Cover

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

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From the Antioch Bookplate Archives — 1980s Part 4

These bookplates show the continuing interest in licensed properties, and Garfield was always a bestselling character on many products. The Mercer Mayer design (B-166) shows an increasing interest in children’s book illustrators.

The unicorn and teddy bear designs were done by staff artist Linda K. Nelson.

Antioch Bookplate B-170

B-170

Test market failure – never sold

Antioch Bookplates B-168

B-168

Antioch Bookplate B-169

B-169

Antioch Bookplate B-171

B-171

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Public Art in the 1970s

Currently the Yellow Springs Arts Council is highlighting Yellow Springs tradition of public art via the Banner Festival, but murals have also been a Yellow Springs public art expression since the 1970s as shown in this newspaper article from the Xenia Gazette.issue of May 21, 1973.

How many of these murals have survived?

Bearing in mind that this article was written before the 1974 Xenia tornado, how many of those tempting blank walls in Xenia survived?

Did Jones and Kaye ever get their National Endowment of the Arts funding and continue to paint murals across America?

Yellow Springs Group offers unique murals

By RICH HEILAND
GAZETTE staff writer

Mike Jones and Melanie Kaye do strange things in the evening. Nights, too. Like the infamous Count Dracula, they prowl the Yellow Springs dark doing unusual deeds. But they do not inflict wounds upon the unsuspecting Yellow Springs populace; rather, they inflict drab buildings with paint.

It is not the “spray-paint art” that drives local constables, businessmen and insurance companies up walls every Halloween. It is real, honest-to-goodness 1970s style art. The pair, along with cohorts Michael Fajans and Tim Barrett, known about the village as the “Public Works Company,” paint murlas on otherwise drab and dreary walls.

The group first gained a flash of local notoriety last May when a large mkural mysteriously appeared on the wall of the Oddfellows Lodge on Xenia Ave. The mural showed the view that would meet one'[s eye if the Oddfellows Lodge were, in fact, not in the way.

Mike Jones remembers well the first effort that has led to four other wall murals around the village and started what the four hope will become a business.

“SOME GUY painted aa bill board over on Corry St.,” Jones recalled the other deay. “But the village fathers decided that it violated the sign ordinance and he had to take it down. The Oddfellows Lodge needed painting and we were approached about a mural, but we were afraid it might fall into the same category.

“We had another worry. As you know, there is a union on Antioch’s campus and they are supposed to do all of the painting on campus. Now, the Oddfellows Lodge is on college land. We knew that nobody could afford to pay them to do it.’

At this point Jones and company had to be sneaky.

“We got all of the paint and showed up on a Friday afternoon after the workers had gone home for the weekend. We knew we had to get the whole thing done by Monday,” Jones said. “We had done a regular painting and put it on a scale so that four inches on the painting equaled four feet on the wall. We gave everyone a section of the wall to do.”

“YEH,” ADDED Melanie. “We had over 40 people working on that and we went on all night.”

“By Saturday morning we had everything on except the tree leaves,” jones said. “By Monday we had it done. Mr. (Howard) Kahoe, the village manager, looked at it and he liked it. The only worry Plan Board and the village had was that some company would paint one to look like their product and call it pop art, liike a big soft drink bottle. But that hasn’t happened.”

Since then, the four have put on a mural on a wall down by Eddie’s Party Supplies showing the view one gets as he approaches the village on US 68 from Springfield. Another one has been put on the back wall of the Yellow Gulch Saloon on Xenia Ave. and another on Corry St., across from the Antioch power plant.

The four are currently putting one on the side wall of the Ehman Fire Equipment Disstributors on Corry St. this one shows a huge steam-driven locomotive coming into town. It also shows the old railroad depot that once stood where the firehouse parking lot now is on Corry St.

This one is where night work comes in, according to Melanie and Mike.

“We don’t do these freehand,” Melanie pointed out. “We take old pictures and alter them to get the right scale. Then we make a slide and come down here at night with a slide projector, put it on the wall, and outline it. That’s why we are out here at night.”

Jones admitted it has been cold work this month, but the style demands the suffering.

“I know you had ice on your windshields this morning,” he told Burnell Ehmann, owner of the business, last week. “I know because it was cold out here last night.”

But to the two, the suffering is worth the effort. They feel it livens up the walls and in the case of the mural showing the depot and train, it records a bit of the village’s history. Ehman said he had no objection to the project at all.

“I’ve seen it done on the West Coast and I’m all for it,” he said. “It’s better than bare walls and ugly signs. Besides, both my son and myself are railroad buffs, so I like the whole idea of the train and the depot.”

JONES SAID the four would like to branch out to other communities and he said they have tried to get into the Xenia area.

“We talked to a businessman in Xenia and we thought we just about had him convinced to let us paint his wall, but he changed his mind. It’s too bad,” Jones said, “but a lot of the businessmen in Xenia still seem conservative and hesitant to be the first business to do it.

“Xenia is ripe for this. It has a lot of bare walls that could be painted. If done right,l it can really add a lot to a downtown area, like it has in Dayton and Cincinnati.”

But the four may not have time to worry about Xenia, if their plans work out. They have applied to the National Endowment of the Arts for a grant that would allow them to travel from Greene County to the West Coast, stopping along the way to paint buildings.

“If we get this grant,” Jones said, “we would head west. When we see a building with a good wall, stop, ask the man if we can paint it, and it doesn’t cost him anything. It may seem strange, but the endowment is one area of federal funjding that has been increased instead of being cut back.”

But, regardless of whether it is Xenia or Davenport, Iowa, “Public Works” is going to be painting walls, night and day. So far, they say, that first critic hasn’t been heard from.

“Everyone seems to love it,” said Melanie as she went back to putting the finishing touches on the old railroad depot.

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