Historic Mural Is Now History

downtown Menomonie mural lost to demolition

Darrion Behrendt, photos by Patricia Parzyck

ONE LAST LOOK. The impending demolition of the former Lee Drug building at the corner of Main and Second streets in Menomoie spells the end for this mural based on historic photos of the city.
ONE LAST LOOK. The impending demolition of the former Lee Drug building at the corner of Main and Second streets in Menomoie spells the end for this mural based on historic photos of the city.

The city of Menomonie has been around for about 135 years, and as in most American towns and cities, as the years roll by landmarks rise and fall. As folks often come and go a little more quickly than buildings, these landmarks stand for years reminding us of the rich and interesting history we’ve built. That is, until the time comes for change, growth, and new historical landmarks.

One of these landmarks, a mural painted by three local artists nearly 40 years ago, has now come to its own end in order to make room for a new hotel. The mural was on the east side of the former Lee Drug building across Second Street from the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. Time, the elements, and an unfortunate coat of sealant (added by well-meaning people some time after the mural had been created) had taken their toll on the mural, and now it’s time for residents, students, and the like to say goodbye to this little piece of local history. (In fact, by the time you read this, the 1880s-era brick building may already have been turned into rubble.)

Originally the unnamed mural – created by Dunn County Artspeople with the help of a Wisconsin Arts Board grant – was only supposed to last about five years, but it has obviously long surpassed that. Time and hard work was then and is now the key to its legacy: Time first spent researching photos in Menomonie’s old library (now the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts) and then even more time painting the mural itself in 1978. The artists would often begin work on it before dawn and wouldn’t leave until sunset. About a month later, the mural Menomoie came to know and love was finally complete.

The mural – painted by Terry Parzyck, Pete Lang, and Jeff Maynard – was created in order to recognize the contributions of the working-class folk of Menomonie. While there were plenty of big names populating the town and helping with growth in many ways, “They were not the ones who built the city of Menomonie,” Parzyck said in a recent interview. The mural displays the faces of the various hardworking people of 19th-century Menomonie – although originally the figures weren’t supposed to have faces at all. Parzyck wanted people to be able to look at the mural and feel a familial connection to the people pictured. However, an agreement was eventually made in which the three painters would give these figures faces. In the end, the artists also painted themselves into their work, and their likenesses stood quietly for years alongside the people they wanted to commemorate.

While the it won’t be available for photo ops anymore, the mural will be well-preserved through various other forms of art, including photos stretched onto canvas and smaller photos attached to brick-sized blocks of wood. These were created by another local artist, Patricia Parzyck, Terry’s wife. She also created a pamphlet to commemorate the mural and give folks some background as to where it came from and what it meant. (Some of the details in this article come from that pamphlet.) Patricia Parzyck also plans to sell photos of the mural at La dee dah Gift Shop, 3011 Main St. E, Menomonie. As for Terry Parzyck, he plans on being available to chat about his art, life, and other things at his coin shop, which he now runs in downtown Menomonie, about two blocks away from where he once painted the mural.