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Monday, August 11, 2014

The Old Soo Line

Us Monday Mural hounds love to find an artist at work!  The town of Ashland is known as Wisconsin's Historic Mural capital and is only a 1/2 hour drive from our campground in Bayfield. We found artist Kelly Meredith hard at work on the latest addition to the collection while visiting the area this weekend.

I knew the work was "in progress" and we just happened to stop by just as she was finishing up for the day.  I asked it it was okay to photograph her, and she asked if it was okay if she kept working.  We were both happy to comply.

You have to see it to believe it, the work is amazing.  Those men looked like they were going to step right out of the mural.  My photos don't do it justice.  The piece includes 30 workmen from the Chicago Northwestern Railroad and the Soo Line.  Each man's image was sponsored by family and friends who provided portraits for the project.

Apparently this past weekend was also the annual Mural Walk Celebration, but we missed that.  When we were walking around on Saturday afternoon it was just us on Main Street, trying to stick to the side of the street that was in the shade.

Right across the street from the mural is a Soo Line steam engine.  Built in 1900 it originally ran between Minneapolis and Sault Ste. Marie until it was sent to work the ore docks in Superior, Wisconsin in 1912.  There it remained until 1929 when it was transfered to Minneapolis/St. Paul to perform yard duties.  In 1942 it made its way to Ashland to work the ore docks until 1954.  In 1956 it was given to the city and it was moved to its present location at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue in the 1980's.  

We had lunch at the rebuilt historic Chequamegon Hotel.  The original hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1957 but they've rebuilt a replica that is close to the original and is now run by Best Western.  Don't go for the food, but the history on display in the hallway of the town was interesting.

image courtesy of Ashland Historical Society Museum

By the late 1800's Ashland was a huge shipping center dealing in ore and lumber and the hotel was built by the Wisconsin Central Railroad.  

Wisconsin Central ore dock #1, 1917
image courtesy of Ashland Historical Society

But the fact I learned that I can't wrap my brain around is that in 1893 10,000 men (and one woman) were  here logging timber for the city's 10 sawmills!  That's more than the entire population that lives there today, just to cut trees!  Can you imagine what this area used to look like before?  More on this later as Ahland's murals includes a lumberjack tribute.


  1. I really like historical murals like this one. Great find!

  2. I love seeing communities honor their history with murals. I like how families of the people in the murals got involved.

    Take 25 to Hollister

  3. We really enjoyed the murals in Ashland. Thanks for a little history of the area.

  4. We are sorry we didn't stop in Ashland. Next time! I had two things on my mind...catch up to our friends and get to Glacier. Our next trip across will be different.

  5. That would be so cool to have your portrait on a mural. What a memorial!

  6. What a beautiful mural. Not sure I'd build a mural to honor the lumberjacks who denuded the town. Hope all the trees have grown back although it will be a long time before they replace those old growth that were logged.

  7. It's always a delight to see a mural in progress. This one looks like it's going to be fabulous. I love it when real portraits are included in a scene. Thanks for contributing to this week's Monday Mural.