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Second mural points to New Berlin's historic elements

Sepia-toned collage makes note of local people and places

Giants in New Berlin’s history gaze out from a mural that artist Cal Kothrade designed and then executed with artist David Gass for the New Berlin Historical Society’s museum.

Giants in New Berlin’s history gaze out from a mural that artist Cal Kothrade designed and then executed with artist David Gass for the New Berlin Historical Society’s museum.

Dec. 16, 2013

New Berlin — The history of New Berlin is laid out in a second new mural done by artist Cal Kothrade for the New Berlin Historical Society.

Among other elements, the collage painting at the society's museum, 19765 W. National Ave., depicts a former Wisconsin governor who hailed from New Berlin and local farmers who proved that New Berlin soil could grow alfalfa.

The society wanted a mural that would catch the eye of people going past and pique their interest, said Peggy Ament, who is on the society board of directors.

So Kothrade, who donated his artistic services, and society members brainstormed. Because the local historians wanted so many features of New Berlin's history to be represented, the idea of a collage emerged, Kothrade said.

A prominent favorite son in the collage is former Wisconsin Gov. Julius Heil, who grew up in New Berlin (his home still stands on Julius Heil Drive off Interstate 43) and served as governor from 1939 to 1943. He founded the Heil Company in Milwaukee, which fabricated steel tank cars.

The Swartz family, prominent farmers in the community, showed all the "experts" that New Berlin soil could indeed grow alfalfa, and their alfalfa became known all over the country, Ament said. The Swartz family was also known for its apple orchard, so the mural shows members of that prominent farm family both plowing the soil and picking apples.

A historical marker sits at Racine Avenue and Swartz Road marking the location of the family farm.

The mural also tips its hat to suffragette Theodora Winton Youmans, who marched with Susan B. Anthony, and early New Berlin pioneer Johann Meidenbauer. Winton Youmans' home and Meidenbauer's log cabin (originally on Lawnsdale Road) are now preserved in the New Berlin Historic Park.

The mural also remembers the round barn that stood on Calhoun Road between Beloit Road and National Avenue and two creameries that once served early New Berlin families. One of the creameries was transformed into a bar and restaurant, Mustang Shelly's Roadhouse, 18540 W. National Ave. The other former creamery is on Cleveland Avenue west of Calhoun Road, Ament said.

The Historical Society is thrilled with the new mural.

"It turned out gorgeous. We're so pleased," Ament said.

The entire mural is done in sepia tones.

"It says historical," Kothrade explained, and, "They wanted something to catch people's eye."

But going from concept to reality was tough.

Kothrade's packed schedule left just one weekend in October free.

"That one was tough to get through," Kothrade said. "It was so cold and it rained on us three times on Saturday and once on Sunday to a point we had to stop," he said.

Again, fellow artist David Gass, an art teacher with the Milwaukee Public Schools, helped. It took the pair long days of work from Friday through Sunday, but they got it done.

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