PENINSULA — As the state of Washington approached its 1989 centennial anniversary, Pacific County was at a bit of a crossroads. The industries that had kept it thriving — timber and fishing — were fading, and the communities needed something new to bring in dollars. Then a chance clarion call from Canada pointed to a new direction for the future of the Peninsula’s economy.
In 1985, then-Ilwaco Port Director Bob Peterson heard a program on the radio talking about the Vancouver Island, British Columbian town of Chemainus, and how it had embraced tourism as a source of income that could make up for their similar economic downturn. One idea Peterson loved, was how the town had commissioned artists to paint murals around the town depicting its history.
Peterson, with an eye toward the upcoming centennial in 1989, approached the Pacific County Economic Development Council (EDC) about taking on a similar project. They liked the idea so much they paid for Peterson to go to Chemainus and bring back photos and information. After showcasing what he brought back to the city councils of Long Beach and Ilwaco — and with the support of the EDC and local businesses — the Pacific County Centennial Murals Committee was founded.
The committee featured two of the Peninsula’s most revered artists — Charles Mulvey and John Campiche — as well as Campiche’s son David, an EDC director at that time, who was named chairman of the committee.
With the intention to “paint larger-than-life murals on the exterior walls of buildings,” the work began. A brochure was printed and distributed locally, detailing what was to come.
“This mural project is an effort by citizens of Pacific County to beautify and preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the area; to make Pacific County more of a destination for visitors; and to improve the economy of the area through more jobs and more dollars,” the brochure read. “To some extent it will offset the loss of jobs in the forest products industry and from declines in commercial and sport fishing.”
In many ways, the Centennial murals project was the first real stab at the tourism market that would come to define the local economy.
In summer 1986, the Murals Committee received at least $25,000 in funding for the project from a variety of sources including municipalities, businesses, foundations and individuals, as well as holding auctions and other fundraisers.
The first mural was completed later that year by artist Thomas J. Teitge of Hailey, Idaho, who painted a sort of window into the past on the side of the old Doupé building in Ilwaco. Starting on the left side of the work, a contemporary child carrying a skateboard is walking toward a scene of downtown Ilwaco, circa 1920, complete with the narrow gauge railroad running down Main Street.
Brothers Robert and Douglas Dafford of Lafayette, LA., painted a sweeping panoramic mural of cranberry pickers in the 1920s on the side of Dennis Co. in Long Beach — it was recently restored. A year later, pleased with the results, Denis Company hired them to paint another on the side of their Raymond building, depicting the town in 1905. Peninsula Pharmacies also boast multiple murals their buildings, with a triptych on the side of the Long Beach store showing beachcombers and clam digging. They inherited a mural when they moved into the former Key Bank building in Ilwaco, which features a scene depicting the old First National Bank circa 1915. The mural in Long Beach, by former Peninsula resident Dorothy Danielson, was restored in the early-2010s after a car collided with the outside of the building.
Two artists who contributed to the murals in Chamainus, B.C., also took part in the Pacific County works. Colin Williams produced the mural on the north side of the Long Beach Elks Lodge depicting a historic shipwreck near Cape Disappointment, while Dan Sawatsky painted a small mural on the side of a telephone utility building in Chinook featuring telephone linemen.
The last of the murals created for the project was completed in 1991 by Bob McCausland, a Tokeland artist and member of the Pacific County Historical Society. McCausland was asked by then-director of the Pacific County Museum Virginia Graves to create a mural on the north facing exterior wall of the building. The board of the historical society chose a photograph of South Bend as it appeared in 1911 as the subject matter. According to an article in the Spring 1992 edition of the Pacific County Historical Society journal Sou’Wester, “In order to insure accuracy of perspective and building detail, the artist drew the scene from photographs on a large piece of illustration board, then overlaid the entire drawing with one-inch squares. Each square was equivalent to one foot on the wall, also lined into squares. Both sets were numbered to eliminate any confusion as to location.” The painting was restored in 2003.
Of the 19 murals that were commissioned for the project, 14 still exist nearly 30 years later — some in an artistically dilapidated condition. William Garnett created three murals for the project, with only one still remaining today — his giant mural on the side of what is now the Olde Towne Trading Post coffee shop building in Ilwaco, depicting net fishermen and horse seiners. The other two — a mural depicting Chinook Indians and their buildings in Ilwaco, and another showing aspects of the oyster industry in Ocean Park — have both been removed by way of work done to their respective buildings.
The Dafford brothers also painted a mural with portrayals of several locals of note in the 1930s on the side of what was Mary Lou’s Tavern in Long Beach. Now Castaways restaurant, the mural was removed during a subsequent remodel.
A mural by Cooke on the side of the former Ole’s Nook Tavern in Ocean Park depicting the Clamshell Railroad is also lost to history. Suquamish artist Frank Samuelson’s contribution of a 1920s beach scene on the side of the visitors bureau building was subsequently destroyed by weather.
Location of centennial murals
1. 201 Pacific Ave., Long Beach: Cranberry pickers
2. 112 Second Ave. N, Long Beach: Shipwreck
3. 111 Bolstad Ave., Long Beach: Loggers
4. 116 Pacific Ave., Long Beach: Beachcombers
5. 4609 Pacific Way, Seaview: Loggers
6. 2780 First Ave., Seaview: Stagecoach and Native Americans
7. 108 First Ave. N, Ilwaco: Horse seiners
8. 108 Spruce St. W., Ilwaco: Baker Bay
9. 132 Spruce St. W., Ilwaco: First National Bank
10. 102 First Ave. S., Ilwaco: Ilwaco’s past
11. 768 US 101, Chinook: Telephone utility workers
12. 1008 Robert Bush Drive W., South Bend: South Bend’s past
13. 446 Blake St., Raymond: Raymond 1905
14. 1117 Warrenton Cannery Rd., North Cove: Warrenton Cannery and pickers