For this theme I chose the town of Lake Placid, Florida. They are known for being the “Caladium Capital of the World” and also the “Town of Murals”. While it is not yet caladium season, murals are there year round. I wanted to take a drive there and celebrate my sister’s birthday.
There are at least 46 murals that adorn the sides of buildings and don’t blink as you drive slowly through the town or you will miss one or two. As I look now at the list, even I missed some. (No, I am not going to post a photo of every one – just a few 🙂 Also remember to look behind you as if you drive looking forward, as you pass a building – sure enough there will be a mural on the side you missed. I will include a little information about each mural to give you the size, artist, and background. I think that makes it more fun, and I hope you enjoy the information.
I start this with a cute mural that let me tell you has detail beyond belief. It is titled Ink Spots by artist Chad Hickey. It is 12 ft wide by 7 ft high. You can read that newspaper. Not just made up letters/words, but it is painted like the news story. Those green lamps are actual lamps to light up the mural at night.
The mischievous nature of three Dalmation puppies comes to life in “ink spots”, a mural that reflects the history of Lake Placid through the perspective of its hometown newspaper of nearly 40 years, The Journal.
Having already chewed up a gardening trowel next to a pot of Lake Placid’s world-famous caladiums, the puppies are climbing on a crate of citrus. This great bears one of Lake Placid’s early labels, Bark Canoe. They are having a wonderful time tearing up the first edition of the Lake Placid Journal published by longtime owners the Lamonte and Emmalene Moore.
Now this started my tour, but it didn’t stop there… the following was on the side of a restaurant and there were cars in front of it, making it impossible to photograph.
So, I had to drive back later to get it. I think it was worth it. Turkey Hunt – the Lost Opportunity by artist Tom Brooks. It is 42 ft wide x 7 ft 8 in high.
This beautiful mural captures the mood of old rural Florida. The massive live oak trees, dripping with moss, make one feel they are going back in time. The old cattle pen aged and falling down is reminiscent of days of long ago. In the distance you can see cattle grazing in the open pasture land. Scenes like this are seen today along the back roads around Lake Placid.
Turkeys are abundant in this area and hunting is a favorite sport. The Osceola species of turkey is native to Florida. they are very cunning and have very Keen eyesight and hearing. It does not take much to spook them; therefore, the hunters know to remain as quiet as possible.
Hunters arise before dawn, don camouflage clothing, and conceal themselves in their hideaways. Can you find the sleeping hunter with the turkeys all around? We know the hunter is sleeping or the turkeys would be gone.
Note – find the hunter.
And I left this one mostly unedited (didn’t remove the sign) to show that the murals are on all sides of buildings. This one has the Art of Clowning on one side and Toby’s First Clown School on the other. Toby’s first clown school is on the left by artist Keith Goodson and it is 60 ft wide by 15 ft high. The Art of Clowning is 30ft wide and 9 ft high by artist Monica Turner. It is on American Clown Museum and School, by founder Toby the Clown.
The year was 1980; the Lake Placid Hospital was just a clinic, with high hopes of becoming a full-fledged hospital, when Toby, Keith Stokes, entered the picture. In past years, Toby practiced the art of clowning as a Shrine Clown, where he went into the hospitals to entertain the patients, and the hospital staff. Things were about to change in Lake Placid. In 1982, the clinic became the full-fledged hospital it had hoped to become, and now Toby’s brand of Clown Medicine began to take hold. The demand was great, and other hospitals, Walker Memorial, Wauchula Hospital, Highlands Regional, and the Lake Placid Health Care Center requested his special talent. Now what was he going to do? Toby was just coming off some health issues of his own, and could not keep up with the demand, and there were no other clowns in Lake Placid or Highlands County. In 1991, Toby decided he needed to teach the art of clowning. He went to Florida Hospital with his plans, and they gave him permission to use one of their rooms to teach his first class of six eager students. Soon Walker Hospital and Wauchula Hospital requested he teach in their facilities also.
Here we depict Toby’s first clown school. Can you imagine the pride Toby felt when these six new clowns graduated, and went out into the community to spread smiles, love, and laughter? He organized the first class of clowns and graduated 6 clowns. Now we are proud to say more than 2500 clowns have graduated from the American Clown School.
Since this one is on such an angle you really can’t see the true size, but I wanted you to gain an understanding of what you might encounter. Not to mention trees and things that block the view.
Not all the murals are of nature or whimsy as you can see in this one with boxing and a tire store. This one is Captain T.W. Webb by artist Richard Currier and no size is listed for this one.
So, where did all these interesting and beautiful plants called “caladiums” come from? Who discovered they grew so well here?
They came from the tropical Amazon River Valley of South America. One of the first caladium growers, Theodore Webb, discovered caladium bulbs while visiting Tampa. He brought some home, threw them in the ground and about 60 years later, caladiums are a multi-million dollar industry and the bulbs are sold around the world. It could be said that as tulips go with Holland, caladiums go with Lake Placid.
But Webb did more than cultivate his 10-acres of commercial caladiums in the 1930s. He opened the town’s first service station in 1924, the only one between Sebring and West Palm Beach. His Studebaker was one of the first cars in town. He sponsored Golden Gloves boxing and built a boxing ring adjacent to the service station to give folks something fun to do or watch. It was called “The Thursday Night Fights.”
There are also murals of the heritage of the area with the Indians and the Spanish influence. The following one is Lake Istokpoga Village by Guy LaBree and is 32 ft wide by 13 ft high.
This is a replica of a Seminole village about 100 years ago.
Today, these big billowing clouds still loom over the lake on a warm afternoon as we ponder these wondrous waters that sustained the life of this Indian woman and, in a remarkable way, sustain life 100 years later.
Village men found abundant food around and in the lake. Still, the mystery of Istokpoga’s history includes stories of dangerous whirlpools were people drowned. Impossible? Consider the word “Istokpoga” means “many men died here”. Thankfully, these stories also included the legend of the shaman who magically “fixed” the whirpools to make the lake safer.
Village woman prepared the food. This Indian woman pounds corn with a mortar and pestle to make grits for sofkee, a bland corn soup. It is a favorite hot drink of Florida natives.
Behind her, the chickees are built of cypress logs and palm thatching. Designed to let the breezes blow freely through, they also bore mosquito netting. Chickees had roof rafters for storage. Everyone shared a cooking chickee and the fire never went out.
The Indian lady is wearing a dress made by cutting brightly colored fabric into squares and folding it like origami. Then it is sewn together on a hand operated sewing machine.
For hairstyle emulates the bonnets adopted from non-Indian fashion. She is barefoot and loves necklaces.
Like the Caucasian settlers that followed, the Seminole Indians were not native Floridians, but drifted southward mostly from Alabama and Georgia.
Look for two one inch spirit men. (yeah right).
And more nature ones of a bear cub titled Lost Cub by artist Terry Smith, it is 3 scenes measuring 46 ft wide by 13 1/2 ft high. Note find two bear paws and an Indian this this mural.
Lake Placid was once one of the best bear hunting grounds in Southern Florida. The territory around Lake Istokpoga and south along the western edge of the sand hills was almost too thick to penetrate by man or dog. This presented a perfect haven for bears to raise their young. The area was rich in palmetto berries and acorns; everywhere there were yellow jacket and bumblebee nests along the bay gall; acres of huckleberries and blueberries. There was always plenty to eat and bears grew fat.
When settlers moved into the area they brought cattle and razorback hogs. Unfortunately, the bears liked fresh pork and beef, and, out of necessity the pioneers became bear hunters. During the first hunt 34 bear were killed: and some of the old timers boasted of killing over 200 bears during their lifetime. The meat was excellent eaten fresh, salted, jerked or dried and bear grease far surpassed hog lard for cooking. It took a great deal of nerve to stand directly in front of a large black bear running through the dense woods directly at you and take a shot.
And if you thought only sides of buildings were painted….. Here is a trash can….Behind it is the corner of the mural Bassin.
or two. Yes the car is a trash can. It is 1927 Comic Chrysler. Designed and built by Randy Goodman. The artist was Bruce Motz. But we cannot leave with seeing one of the biggest ones – Cracker Cattle Trail Drive – depicting the old days when cattle was driven just north of Lake Placid on what is now rt 98. This one is 175 ft wide by 30 ft high by artist Keith Goodson.
Listen to the yips, moos and thunder as the Cowmen drive a herd of cattle through the Lake Placid area on their way to market. It was a two to three week trip and full of danger. Only the strongest would survive. Storms took their toll on cowmen as well as the cattle. They feared these storms because, not only could it stampede a herd, but also the lightening could kill. Often these cattle were driven to a deep-water port, and shipped to Cuba where cattlemen received gold. The cattle were lean, as it was not uncommon for them to lose 200 to 300 pounds during the drive. At that time there were no roads across the state and it was just a trail. The life of the Florida cowmen was not easy as they battled the heat, insects and storms.
The name “cracker” comes from the cracking of the whips the cowmen carried to keep the herd together. The registered brands you see all belong to Highlands County cattlemen. Highlands County ranks high in the production of beef cattle in the eastern United States.
All of these photos were taken with a camera that I borrowed from Liz Cantarine – a canon sx50 which has a tremendous zoom on it and still allows you to shoot in raw and in Manual or AP/TV modes. So a big thank you to Liz for lending this to me.
Now – you can pick up color brochures containing mural history and location maps from local retailers or at the mural society’s office in the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center. Now a number of places were closed on Sunday, so I am not sure if you can get more information on Sundays. The information about these murals was from http://www.htn.net/lplacid/murals/murals.htm
It is out route 64 then south on rt 27 or out rt 70 and north on rt 27. It is about 75 miles.
So take a drive – get out and see Florida. I’ll be going back for the Caladium festival.