Historic depot to be recreated as Mendota mural

‘Mendota Gold’ mural supplemented with interactive placard

Only a few venerable Mendota residents will remember the old train depot – it came down in 1942 – but a new generation will get to see the historic depot, just not in bricks and mortar.

The old depot will instead be depicted on a vast mural (6,350 square feet) to be affixed to the south side of the Triple Service building at the intersection of Monroe and Illinois streets.

Project organizers hosted a double unveiling Monday in which they first pulled the hood off an interactive placard to complement “Mendota Gold” – the popular mural of an ear of sweet corn – and then revealed the preliminary sketch of the “Union Depot” mural.

“We have a concept called ‘Silo Pathways’ where we wanted to do this large-scale art through the whole region,” said artist Ray Paseka, who will lend his brush to the Union Depot mural.

The Mendota Gold mural was so successful that project organizers installed an explanatory placard at the Breaking the Prairie Museum and the Union Depot Railroad Museum & Amtrak Station. The placard includes prompts for visitors to call up information and narration with their smart phones.

Mendota Gold also spurred project organizers to think even bigger. Gabe and Michelle Wade, owners of Triple Service, Inc. in Mendota, teamed up with NCI ARTworks to announce the next public art project for Mendota and the next one for the Silo Pathways Countryside Public Art Tour.

“(Union Depot) brings it all to fruition, especially for those who never got to see this magnificent building in real life,” said Michelle Wade. “We want to raise the depot for upcoming generations to enjoy.”

“Raise the Depot” is an ambitious, three-dimensional, 127-foot-wide x 50-foot-tall mural depicting the historic Union Depot Train Station as it was in downtown Mendota in the 1900s. It will be comprised of of pre-painted aluminum sheeting mounted to a steel support grid. Construction methods will preserve the mural for decades.

Equally ambitious is the timetable: Project organizers hope to raise funds swiftly and have the mural ready in time for next year’s Sweet Corn Festival.

Emily McConville, Mendota City Clerk: “The Union Depot is a very important part of Mendota history, and we welcome the mural as a reminder of that amazing building that was demolished in 1942.”

NCI ARTworks developed Silo Pathways in 2017 as a curated outdoor art gallery through La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties. Other installations are in Cherry, Princeton and Streator, with two more projects in the works in Seneca and La Salle.

“Developing this tourism attraction through La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties is the legacy project of NCI ARTworks, our regional arts agency,” chairman Chris Coughlin said, noting NCI ARTworks plans to curate 15 works of art in its first phase of the Silo Pathways Countryside Public Art Tour.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.