40-foot Civil War mural planned for Ypsilanti's Thompson Block
A new piece of public art is planned for Depot Town's 149-year-old Thompson Block building.
Ypsilanti High School art students have teamed up with a local Civil War re-enactment group to produce a 6-foot by 40-foot Civil War mural for the building’s west side.
The building served as Union Army barracks during the Civil War.
John Delcamp is part of the Civil War Reenacting Company E, 17th Michigan Infantry, which raised money for the project. He said part of that regiment mustered out of the Normal School - which is now Eastern Michigan University - during the Civil War, and the regiment was housed in the Thompson Block.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Delcamp said buildings used during the Civil War are common in places like Tennessee and Virginia, but there are few in Michigan.
“You get up here in Michigan and there’s practically nothing,” he said. “Of course, the war wasn’t fought here, which is why there aren’t many places of interest so it holds a significant spot in local Civil War history.”
During the war, the basement was used to prepare food, the ground floor was a wagon repair shop, soldiers lived on the second floor and the third floor was used for living space and dances.
A collage will be created and assembled by YHS teacher Robin Evans’ students in grades nine through 12. Students will work on painting different pieces of wood that will then be assembled to create a larger collage.
The students are working off old Civil War pictures and re-enactment photos provided by Delcamp.
For example, some students could paint a 2-foot by 4-foot portrait of a Civil War colonel, while others could work on a longer picture of the wagon repair shop. The two pictures will then be pieced together on the River Street side of the Thompson Block.
Evans said she is hoping to have the collage complete by the time students leave for summer break in June. The mural will be up at least through the Heritage Festival, which is planned for mid-August.
Evans’ past art classes have done several public art projects, and she says students were excited to get started on this effort.
“They love doing it,” she said.
The E 17th Michigan Infantry has also been working for seven years to have a State of Michigan historical marker placed outside the Thompson block, and Delcamp is optimistic that will happen this summer.
The marker would tell the history of the building, and Delcamp said it and the mural will give the Thompson Block’s history the recognition it deserves.
The building is now painted and partly sealed, and Beal has another 18 months to complete the building's "envelope," including finishing the roof. The southeast portion of the structure also remains partially collapsed.
Beal is looking for investors, financiers, potential tenants or other parties who can assist with funding the remaining construction. The project was once planned as a mixed commercial/residential use, but Beal has adjusted the plans to only include residential lofts.
But, in the meantime, Delcamp is pleased with the building's new appearance.
"I've been driving by (the Thompson Block) since 1968 and it has never looked better than it has now,” he said. “This mural will be nice. It will be a positive thing. It’s public art, and people will think of the building a little differently when they see the mural up there.”