The other day Auntie Bridget and I passed the completed murals at Belmont and 33rd. We had seen them worked on all summer and fall. There are ten panels. This is what my favorite one looked like, months ago:
As we looked, we realized they were all images specific to our neighborhood of Sunnyside. There is the trolley car that brought residents here from downtown in the 1890s. There is the community garden…. and is that The Pied Cow?
Let me explain. The Pied Cow is a quirky coffeehouse located in a distinctive old house on Belmont Avenue. There is always this black Cadillac parked out front. It has a Haunted Mansion feel….spooky, but in a friendly, benevolently ghosty sort of way.
And that house is in the mural, with a lady ghost hovering above it. Hmmmmmm. The mural also shows another old house just around the corner, an equally distinctive structure, with bats coming out of it. Hmmmm again.
We walked and stared and took pictures. Then we went home and researched. There are indeed stories of the J.C. Havely House, which now houses the Pied Cow, being haunted by a benevolent ghost called Aunt Lydia. We can’t nail down WHOSE Aunt Lydia was, though. Mr. Havely, the railroad tycoon who built the house in 1893? A more recent resident? The answers are vague.
We spent a good deal of time reading and learning, then went and did stuff that needed doing. Auntie Bridgett did some collages and I continued organizing my office.
When dinnertime came, we knew we would go to the Pied Cow and see what we could learn. As we were walking around the block, we passed a young lady walking an extremely old dog. While we were sitting at our table in the yard, Bridgett looked up and saw this same young lady on the balcony on the restaurant, watering potted plants.
“Is that dog the one in the window, in the mural?” She asked. Phone, photo, check. Yes! It is! So the mural not only shows the house’s history, but its present! I am impressed. Intrigued. And I want to know more.
Why is the other house, a Queen Anne style built in the same year by Thaddeus Fisher, included in the mural? Is it also haunted? It is shown with bats coming out… did someone have bats in their belfry? Hmmmmm again.
The Belmont Murals, painted by Mado Hues in cooperation with the Portland Street Art Association, show a remarkable visual language. They answer questions you didn’t know you were asking and make you want to know more. That, in my opinion, is what art is supposed to do.
I love Portland!