lake scene

An old lake scene would seem an appropriate choice for a mural that’s being proposed for downtown Angola, Editor Mike Marturello writes. This image appeared as the cover of “Memories of Steuben County,” published in 1997 by The Herald Republican.

Two up and coming student leaders from Angola High School, Brooklynn Shively and Teryn Stanley, have proposed the painting of a mural in downtown Angola.

And the most likely spot identified so far is the south side of the Hansbarger Realty building at the south side of the northeast quadrant of the Public Square.

Owner Mark Hansbarger is open to the idea, especially seeing that there once was a mural on that wall, a map showing people how to get away from Angola, if you will, by driving on U.S. 20 to either Chicago or Toledo (was Cleveland in there, too?) and by taking U.S. 27 to get to Fort Wayne or points north in Michigan (this was pre-Interstate 69).

When I first moved here in 1981 I wondered about the need for such a map (and this obviously was pre-GPS) but it truly showed how Steuben County was a crossroads within Indiana’s crossroads of the USA.

Now we are talking about a new mural and what it possibly should look like, among other things.

If you look at Garrett and Kendallville, their railroad heritage is played up. Same holds true for other communities, they look at their history for inspiration.

So what would be representative of Steuben County? We often look to our Steuben County Soldiers’ Monument as a symbol of the community, but with it being only a few feet away from the Hansbarger building that doesn’t make sense.

We haven’t been much of a rail community, so that’s out.

The natural would be our lakes. But what would be appropriate? You could always go for a scene from the Lake James sandbar, like the Steuben County website (which surprised me, to be honest) but I don’t think a scene of people standing in the water partying it up would be representative of our rich lake heritage, just a nod to recent times.

There’s the ferry boat disaster from Clear Lake in the 1800s, but tragedy isn’t necessarily the best way to say, “Hey, this is Steuben County!”

You could depict waterfowl that are so plentiful, but each would have its possible detractors: geese (poop all over the beach), great blue heron (make a mess out of the boat lift) or sandhill cranes (they wake me at 4 a.m. during their mating season). OK. My apologies to the birds. I enjoy them all, and besides, they were using the lakes long before we were.

Almost any boat would date the mural. Including the launch. But the launch is a great example of our tourism heritage and transportation often is a theme in these murals.

A launch would say Steuben County more than any horse, car or train. Or boat.

Take a look at a collection of postcards you might find at, say, Remember When, the antique store in Angola Square, or the wonderful Lake James collection owned by historian James Somers, and you’re going to find images of launches taking men in suits and women in long dresses to various points on the developed lakes. We used such an image as the cover of our “Memories of Steuben County” book published in 1997.

The launch was the type of boat that took tourists or lake property owners to cottages on the lakes. People would show up at, say, Paltytown on Lake James and take a launch to their cottage on Lone Tree Point; before the development of Pokagon State Park in 1925, that land was not very accessible by car or horse and buggy for that matter. Not much of the lakes were very accessible back in the day.

For years Pokagon had a replica of a 1902 launch that took visitors on sight-seeing tours of Lake James. No matter what other boats were out there — the classic woodies, the crazy wake boats, or this old guy’s pontoon — in my humble opinion, that launch was the most beautiful boat on the lake.

They say there’s going to be a contest (hopefully not like the downtown restroom naming where there wasn’t a true winner) to come up with an idea.

Let’s leave the theme selection to Mayor Dick Hickman’s arts council or commission or whatever name it is using. Come up with a half dozen or so designs by local artists and then put it to a vote.

No matter what, the lakes need to be a big part of this mural, if it happens.

michael marturello is editor of the The Herald Republican. He can be reached at

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