At the wheel of her mini-van, driving through downtown Ludington, Annette Doerr says, "The first one I think I'll take you to is Reverend Christensen's which is off the main street."
Reverend John Christensen was one of Ludington's most famous citizens. An 800 square-foot mural showing scenes from Reverend John's life is on the west wall of Ludington's Masonic Temple.
Annette says, "Reverend Christensen was a minister here in town forever and he looked after people whether they were part of his congregation or not."
The mural shows him preaching, baptizing a baby, visiting an elderly woman in a hospital and marrying a young couple.
The mural is one of about 20 that can be seen inside and outside buildings in downtown Ludington. They show the city's history and natural resources. Most of them are painted in the same style as Reverend John's. They are realistic depictions – but not very detailed. You could call them folksy.
Fountain of Youth
Down the street and around the corner from the reverend's mural, there's a life-size mural of a man standing at a fountain and drinking from a cup. The man is at the viewer's eye level.
Annette says, "This is 'The Fountain of Youth' right here and this is Rath, Mr. Rath and if you look up there..."
Annette steps from her van up to the mural and points at Rath's vest. Most of the murals feature a hidden object that the viewer is invited to try and find. So, here's a spoiler alert.
Annette says, "A button on his coat is different than the others (laughs)."
The Fountain of Youth mural is one of two on the outside wall of the old Corner Café. When we visited the café, it was just a couple of days from being reopened as Café 106. Annette asked the new owner, Brad Hackert, if he was going to keep the murals up.
Brad says, "Absolutely. It was kind of an added value that we got the murals with the building and it's kind of a neat feature of Ludington."
Joining in the Fun
There are 13 murals that were commissioned by the Ludington Mural Society. But others are adding murals to Ludington's downtown on their own. Like father-and-son photographers Todd and Brad Reed. They've recently added a mural on the front and a mural on the back of their building. In front, is a human eye made up of 730 different photographs. In back, a red tug boat in icy Lake Michigan waters. Brad Reed said he and his father are glad to contribute to the downtown's mural tradition.
Brad says, "We've got the muse of the lake and three major rivers that dump into Ludington and we've got the car ferry and other, you know, beautiful things so I think the murals are just one more added ingredient."
Last year, one of the murals was vandalized. It was the large one of Reverend Christensen.
Annette says, "Well, there was graffiti put on the mural itself, on the lower part of it, and the plaque that we had on it was destroyed. We had to replace the plaque which was very sad, really."
Annette said the plaque was replaced at the cost of a hundred dollars and the damaged section was repainted. And for a couple of years now, new murals have to be painted on metal sheets that are fastened to buildings' walls for easy repair and replacement.