Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stories on the Town Walls

Several years ago the people of Exeter, California were faced with the dilemma of how to draw attention to their historic downtown in the midst of an economic recession.

Several citizens advanced the notion of painting the blank brick walls in the downtown area with murals depicting the life in and about the community.

Exeter's first mural, "Orange Harvest," 33 x 100 feet, completed in 1996 after six months of work, depicts a scene of citrus pickers in the 1930s.

Nestled in the famous San Joaquin Valley, Exeter grows what are considered to be the best navel oranges in the world and is known as the "Citrus Capital of the World."

"Packing Ladies" (1997), a mural depicting the Exeter Citrus Packing House, circa 1950, illustrates ladies packing and grading oranges while the foreman kept a watchful eye. The fresh fruit came in from the fields and onto the grading belts.

Several citrus and grape labels from Exeter's packing houses are the focus of this mural entitled "Exeter Fruit Labels" (1999).

The town was named after the settler and Southern Pacific Railroad representative D.W. Parkhurst’s home town of Exeter, England.

"Our Town, Circa 1925" looks as if it's a page from an old photo album. It is of Exeter's Pine St. about 1925. Images of George Washington and Mickey Mouse are hidden in this mural.

Today, Exeter is a quaint art and agricultural community.

One of the town's 10,000 residents parked his Schwinn outside his favorite shop for an espresso.

We liked the architectural design on this storefront and wondered if it had been a theater in a previous life.

This rooster outside the shop named "Stashbuilders" kept a watchful eye on passersby.

Near Exeter are Mount Whitney, which at 14,494 feet in elevation is the highest peak in the continental US, and the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The town sits at the base of the Sierra foothills of the San Joaquin Mountain range, and this mural shows the snowcapped peaks which surround the town. Covering the mountain scene are other scenes shown on postcards.

In 2000, Exeter's series of murals in the downtown district reflecting the town’s history and culture earned national recognition for the city as “One of America’s Prettiest Painted Places.”

"Golden Harvest" depicts wheat harvesting in Mehrten Valley circa 1915.

"The Emperor Grape Festival" salutes Exeter's Fall Festival, which began in 1913 as the Chrysanthemum Fair.

We figured we saw about three-fourths of the town's nearly two dozen murals.

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