A Little Time and a Keyboard: Mural Adventure in Delavan, Wisconsin

Monday, February 22, 2021

Mural Adventure in Delavan, Wisconsin

 


Learning Delavan, Wisconsin History Through Murals

We recently headed up to Delavan, Wisconsin for a little stop at Crystal Garden Rock Shop to shop through a wonderland of rocks, minerals, fossils and crystals. While adventuring, we noted the beautiful murals throughout Delavan. Delavan has an incredible collection of 20 murals providing for a little art and history aside in any season. So, we wandered a bit appreciating interesting artworks presenting the stories of Delavan.

Famed architects E. Towsend Mix and Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes and businesses in Delavan, Wisconsin.
Famed architects E. Towsend Mix and Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes and businesses
 in Delavan, Wisconsin.

Walldogs Decorate Delavan With Beautiful Murals

In 2015, an international group of muralists known as the Walldogs descended upon Delavan to create murals throughout town reflecting upon its history and present while inspiring the future. We followed an online map to uncover these treasures. Downtown, you will also find a map of the treasures. The first mural we happened upon honored architects Frank Lloyd Wright and E. Townsend Mix both of whom designed several homes and businesses in the Delavan area.

Delavan has long been known as a spot for tourists to enjoy the lake!
Delavan has long been known as a spot for tourists to enjoy the lake!

Murals Unroll Delavan History

Delavan's history as a recreational area charming tourists with relaxation, great views and lake fun tends to be pretty well known. So, seeing a mural reflecting this history easily delights! However, the murals provide easy insight into other elements of Delavan history including agriculture, art, industry, war time contributions, the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, big band days and much more. Murals provide a striking way to unroll and area's history. 

A mural to Delavan founders can be admired on the Chamber of Commerce building which is also historic.
A mural to Delavan founders can be admired on the Chamber of Commerce building
which is also historic.

My favorite mural finds its home on the Delavan  - Delavan Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Building. Built in 1841, the structure once housed Delavan's General Store and is the oldest  brick building in Delavan. The mural commemorates some of the founders of Delavan, Henry and Colonel Samuel Phoenix ,who came to the Wisconsin Territory in 1836 to start a temperance colony.

P. T. Barnum's Circus started in Delavan, Wisconsin.
P. T. Barnum's Circus started in Delavan, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Circus History

With my grandparents, I have visited Circus World in Baraboo. However, I did not know that the P. T. Barnum Circus was originally conceived in Delavan until I scouted the memorial mural.  After meeting P. T. Barnum in 1870 in Delavan, William C. Coup and Dan Costello convinced him to start his own circus. They helped conceive and organize the circus. P. T. Barnum's first circus would leave by train from Delavan in the spring of 1871.

Honoring muralist FranCisco Vargas.
Honoring muralist FranCisco Vargas.

Delavan's Art History

Additionally, Delavan has a long art history making it the perfect location for a mural tour. The town is noted as the birthplace of several artists and was the site of sketching classes. Local artist Elmer Gauger was known for commercial artwork and circus stamp art. One of the most vibrant murals is dedicated to muralist FranCisco Vargas who was a Walldog and painted the Rodriguez Brothers Potato Farm mural. Vargas sadly passed away not too long after contributing to the murals of Delavan.

Delightful mural commemorating the Rodriguez Potato Farm.
Delightful mural commemorating the Rodriguez Potato Farm.

The Rodriguez Brothers Potato Farm mural actually is one of my favorites as well! The Rodriquez Brothers -- Lauro and Louis -- came to Delavan in the summers with their family as migrant workers. Eventually, they received an opportunity to sharecrop on a farm. In 1953, they were able to purchase the farm and eventually grew the farm to 2000 acres.

The vibrant and lyrical murals of Delavan provide for a refreshing way to explore the town and learn history. I am not sharing all of my favorites because I want you to discover some surprises as well! A mural adventure in Delavan uncovers interesting stories during any time of the year. So, think about a little road trip!


Learning Delavan, Wisconsin History Through Murals


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