One of the joys of traveling two-lane roads is following them as they twist and turn through small towns, towns such as Cassopolis, Michigan.
Founded in 1832 on the land between two lovely lakes (Diamond and Stone), Cassopolis was established as the seat of Cass County in southwestern Michigan.
Town and county took their names from Lewis Cass, a New Hampshire native and brigadier general whose service in the War of 1812 earned him the governorship of the Michigan Territory from 1813-1831 (Cass then became Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War, served several terms in the Senate, and in 1848 was the Democratic party's presidential candidate.)
Among Cassopolis' early residents were Quakers, who offered their homes as shelters for the Underground Railroad, the escape route that led from slavery to freedom in the years leading up to the Civil War (the Kentucky Slave Raid took place near here in 1847). Some of those former slaves went on to Canada; others stayed in the area, which still numbers several of their descendents.
I'd driven through Cassopolis a dozen times or more through the years back when I lived in Michigan, but I hadn't been back through until just recently and, obviously, the murals on what is now the Cass County Maintenance Department building caught my eye.
The murals make the building look like a late-1950s Chevrolet dealership, which is what the building was in that era.
In 2006, David Dickey, Cass County superintendent of maintenance, got the idea of using murals to make the front and side of the building once again look like a car dealership. Money was raised, an artist (Jerry Schlundt) was hired, and the murals were dedicated in the fall of 2007.
I've seen other automotive-themed murals on the sides of buildings in other towns, including some towns that aren't quite so small, which makes me wonder if that wonderful parking lot mural still climbs the side of a tall building in downtown Flint, Michigan.
I wish I'd have taken photos of those other murals. I wish I'd have learned the stories of their creation. I wish I had a list of all the automotive murals in all the American cities (and, for that matter, cities in Canada and Mexico as well), because I'd like to visit them as I wander around the two-lanes.
Hey, I know: If you know of such a mural, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org with its location, and maybe a photo as well, and its history if you know it, and I'll try to work it into my travels and into future stories.
Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.