Mural Mural on the Wall
The Florida Mural Trail includes towns that have painted their histories on the facades of local buildings. Take a tour through Palatka, DeLand and Lake Placid to get a glimpse into the colorful pasts of these small Florida towns.
Find the larger-than-life-size murals in Palatka, DeLand and Lake Placid, three cities along the Florida Mural Trail. These murals come alive with their own stories, painted on the sides of walls that have their own history.
Palatka: Night Passages and Evangelical Visits
Palatka, once called the Gem City of the St. Johns, is located in Putnam County on the St. Johns River between Gainesville and Daytona. Your first stop for mural information in Palatka is the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, 1100 Reid Street, Palatka, phone (386) 328-1503. Chamber hours are 8-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The friendly folks who work there will gladly give you a free Mural Guide of the Gem of the St. Johns River. This is a good time to pick up other brochures, including the Palatka Historic Tour that fits in nicely with the mural walk.
There are currently 31 murals around town, with many of them sponsored by the Conlee-Snyder Mural Committee. Check out the website before your trip for a preview of what you will see and visit. Old-time music plays while you take a virtual tour.
You may be surprised to learn that evangelist Billy Graham has connections to this small town. While in seminary in Tampa during the early 1930s, Graham met several ministers from Palatka. He came and lived in Palatka for a year and was baptized in town after converting from Presbyterian to Baptist. Graham gave his first sermon at Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka. A local story goes that Graham prepared his sermon and thought it would run long. When he delivered it, the message lasted about six minutes.
You’ll find a superlative version of Billy Graham at Mural 15 called “To God Be the Glory” at South Fourth Street and St. Johns Avenue. Graham returned to Palatka for the mural dedication in 2000. For Terry Smith, the artist from Land O’Lakes, murals are not fine art; they are meant to tell a story. Smith likes to put small things in his murals, a challenge for the viewer to find. In the Graham mural, he placed a tiny church mouse, a cross on one of Graham’s fingernails and a reflection of hymnals in the windows. See if you can find them all!
Lake Placid: Fish Jump, Birds Fly, Oh My
The small town of Lake Placid in Highlands County has a large number of murals—42 in all. Founded in 1992, The Lake Placid Mural Society has a mural gallery inside the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce, 18 North Oak Avenue, Lake Placid, phone (863) 465-4331.
Begin by watching the 10-minute video showing the evolution of the town’s murals. Around the walls are the artists’ original renderings for each mural. Also pick up a full-color booklet called The Murals of Lake Placid for $3, tax included.
As with other murals along the Florida Mural Trail, many of Lake Placid’s have little surprises to look for. Some of them even have sound. At the “Cracker Trail Cattle Drive”, painted in 1995 by Keith Goodson on a wall of the Winn-Dixie grocery store at Route 27 and County Road 621 East, you’ll hear cattle mooing and thunder in the distance. The mural is 175 feet wide by 30 feet high. If you’re taking pictures, bring a wide-angle lens; it is that big.
Finding funds a bit short to finish this mural, a creative fundraising idea kicked in: Capitalize on the area’s ranching history by selling cattle brands. No, this didn’t involve actual cattle branding. Instead, ranches bought the right to have their brands painted on the cattle. Get up close and you can see them.
Landscaping and art come together behind Lake Placid Christian School at 106 East Interlake Boulevard. In a small courtyard are two murals and a koi pond, bridge and walkways. The Rotary Club of Lake Placid did this delightful landscaping project. The artwork at this location is called “Birding” and celebrates the city’s spot on the Great Florida Birding Trail. See if you can find burrowing owls, lost binoculars, a camera and a book in this mural.
Highlands County’s 27 freshwater lakes mean that fishing is also a big draw—or painting, in this case. At North Main Avenue and East Belleview Street, a large mouth bass jumps right off the wall, leaping for a lure. Artist Keith Goodson captured the moment in this mural, entitled “Bassin”. The mural won first place in a national contest for Airbrush Magazine.
Lake Placid also happens to be known as the “Caladium Capital of the World”, with a Caladium Festival held each year in August. See this lovely plant celebrated on the mural “Captain” on Interlake Boulevard. It shows “Captain” T.W. Webb, one of the first caladium growers back in the 1930s, surrounded by caladiums. Your challenge is to find the bear silhouette and two bear paws.
DeLand: Painting History with a Broad Brush
The city of DeLand’s founder envisioned a city that would be the Athens of Florida. Over the years, DeLand grew in its own exuberant way. Its founder, Henry A. DeLand, still oversees his vision. You’ll find him, long beard and all, painted in a mural at the northeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Woodland Boulevard in downtown DeLand. Called “Henry’s Vision”, the mural was painted by Courtney Canova and Robert Brooks.
To appreciate all 13 of DeLand’s murals, begin at the MainStreet DeLand Association, 100 North Woodland Boulevard, DeLand, phone (386) 738-0649. The DeLand Mural Committee, part of the MainStreet DeLand Association, envisioned the tour as a stroll through history, inviting visitors to amble along the wide sidewalks as history unfolds like turning the pages of a book. It works. MainStreet DeLand Association also has docents on staff to take visitors through the murals; reservation required.
“Living at the Landmark”is a favorite among many. Painted by Courtney Canova, the mural is located at what is now the DeLand Artisan Inn (formerly the Landmark Hotel) at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Howry Avenue. Blocked-off windows on one side of the building have paintings of people (locals who posed for the painting) dressed in period clothing as they would have been in the 1930s and ‘40s. A man listens to an old record player. A woman looks out the window as a dove flies by. For me, seeing daily life through the windows makes it seem like I am really there. And it is a lovely slice of life.
Mural Number 9, entitled “River Life”, located on the lower level of the Wachovia Bank, 100 East New York Avenue, DeLand, has Florida manatees done in mosaics. The MainStreet Grill, phone (386) 740-9535, is also on that level. There is outdoor seating that faces the mural. Another lunch possibility is Cook’s Café & Sandwich Shop, 101 North Woodland Boulevard, phone (386) 738-5030.
Each mural walk takes about an hour to finish. The three towns are too far apart to make them all a day trip, so enjoy them one at a time. Palatka, DeLand and Lake Placid are just three towns along the Florida Mural Trail. Explore the rest in Milton, Gainesville, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Fort Pierce, Lake Wales, Punta Gorda and Pine Island.
See you on the Florida Mural Trail!