Work on new historic mural in Ellendale to begin soon

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Members of the Ellendale community on Tuesday night gathered at the town’s community center to learn about a mural that will be painted in downtown Ellendale to “keep the spirit of the town alive for years to come.”

The project began when the Ellendale Area Heritage Society applied for a grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation in spring 2024. In August, the foundation awarded Ellendale with a $10,000 grant to go toward paying an artist to paint the mural as well as purchasing materials. In addition to the grant, members of the community have had other fundraisers such as holding vendor events on Main Street.

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The Ellendale Area Heritage Society is hoping to showcase this project in 2025 for the town’s 125th anniversary. They also want to draw positive attention to the town and what it has to offer.

“We have 10 thriving businesses in town, and that’s saying something,” said Gwen Reiss, a member of the Heritage Society and owner of the Two Doves Boutique.

Kellie Mrotz, another Heritage Society member, said she thinks Ellendale is a fun place to discover.

“Any enhancement, like a big gorgeous painting, would be a huge benefit to the community,” she said.

The mural is phase one of a larger project with the goal of developing a multipurpose central gathering place for outdoor community activities. Phase two will involve cleaning and beautifying the location with foliage, benches and other features to make the gathering place appealing. The estimated cost of phase two is $23,000.

The mural will feature three important figures in the town’s history as well as a grain elevator and a 1900s depot and train.

“We are not only representing the town, we also represent the farming communities surrounding us,” said Reiss as she explained a few reasons for the mural’s overall look.

The mural will feature Thomas H. Brown, the right of way and townsite agent who was responsible for locating stations between Albert Lea and Owatonna. He was crucial to the town’s founding, as he donated sites for all of the churches and the hotel.

The second figure is Ellen Dale Ives, for which the town is named. She was the wife of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway president C.J. Ives. She was a compassionate humanitarian who was active in charitable causes and personally delivered food, clothing and other items to those in need.

The third person featured on the mural will be Dr. E.Q. Ertel. He moved to Ellendale in 1908 and continued to serve the community as both the doctor and in donating property for the town’s new football field, among other projects.

The mural will be painted by artist Chandler Anderson. Although he currently lives in Minneapolis, he has strong ties to the community as he is from a farm near Albert Lea. Additionally, several of Ellendale’s original downtown buildings were built with help from his great-grand uncle, Knute Emstad, a specialist of brick and masonry building construction.

Anderson has a lot of experience creating murals as he began when he was a teenager. One of his other works is a mural in the children’s room at the Albert Lea Public Library. Anderson said that he is excited to begin working on Ellendale’s mural because of his personal connections to the town, as well as his ties to southern Minnesota, where his parents still reside. He plans to complete the project in a month and a half so it will be completed by the end of February.

The mural will be built onto a free-standing structure. The art will be painted onto smaller panels made of aluminum composite boards that have a smooth, white surface. After the painting is completed, the mural will be covered with an automotive grade clear coating to provide protection from the outside elements.

“It will hold up longer, in the long run, than wood,” said Anderson.

During the meeting, members of the Ellendale Gathering Place Mural Committee took time to answer questions. There were concerns raised about the possibility of the mural being vandalized. Anderson, who has done many high school mascot murals, said that the possibility of vandalism is always present, but he is not extremely concerned because the materials the mural is painted on are able to be touched up easily. The mural will also be insured through the city.

The community of Ellendale continues to need volunteers and donations to make this project possible, primarily for the second phase of creating a gathering place. They will continue holding fundraisers and plan on selling bricks. The price of these bricks will be determined at a later time.

Those interested in giving to this project can send donations to the Ellendale Area Heritage Society at PO Box 3, Ellendale, MN 56026. Checks should be made to the Ellendale Area Heritage Society with “For: Mural Project” in the memo line.