Ottawa County history in living color

PORT CLINTON For decades, a hay wagon and a tiny windmill hid beneath the murk of 100 years of dust
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010



For decades, a hay wagon and a tiny windmill hid beneath the murk of 100 years of dust and oldvarnish.

Now they live in full view under fluffy white clouds and blue sky.

The dome mural at the Ottawa CountyCourthouse has been restored after two monthsof delicate labor.

“We never had any notions that the colors would be this vivid,” said Judge Paul Moon, a major proponent of the project.

The mural depicts four scenes, each relating to a major industry in Port Clinton. Moon said the panels also relate to immigrant groups of the city’s past. Fishing was typically done by the French when the mural was painted sometime around 1900. Mining was done by Slavic people, farming by the Dutch and fruit growing by the Germans.

“They represent a lot of the heritage of the county,” commissioner Jim Sass said. “And they are unique in that they are approximately in the direction of where each industry is located.”

The fishing panel was painted on the east wall of the dome, the quarry to the west, the farming to the north and the fruit growing to the south.

The mural was restored by Will Kolstad, a conservator with the third-generation art restoration company Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wis., and Columbus-based Rogers & Krajnak Architects.

“The mural held up really well,” Kolstad said. “From what I was able to save, so much of it is original.”

Kolstad said he stripped layers of dirt and vanish away slowly until the original painting was revealed. Then he applied a coat of varnish and made minor touch-ups. That way, he said, he did not disturb the original work.

Moon said upkeep on the mural will not have to be performed again for another 50 years.

The cost of the project was about $25,000 for the restoration and $7,200 for the architectural work — significantly less than the $80,000 price tag the county commissioners had anticipated. Ottawa County paid for the project with money from the general fund for courthouse improvements.

Moon said the updates were easily worth the price.

“It’s just foolish nonsense to not pay attention to our history,” he said.

Sass said he agreed.

“All of the residents of Ottawa County can now see what a jewel we have here in the courthouse,” he said.

Moon said the restoration has special meaning for him as the great-grandson of William Kelly, chairman of the courthouse building committee.

He said he was also pleased the restoration was competed before February, when he will retire.

The only disappointing part of the project, Moon said, was the artist’s initials were nowhere to be found.

“We have no idea who painted this,” he said.

Another mystery: Why did the artist leave one of the horses and the wheels of the hay cart unfinished in the farm scene?

“Did the commissioners not pay the guy and he took off? We don’t know,” Moon said.

Moon said there will be a re-dedication ceremony at the end of July to present the restored mural to the public.