Muralist paints new life to century old building in historical district

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Artist, sign painter and muralist, David Ybarra, has been in Lakeside creating his magic on a 101-year-old store at the corner of River and Laurel Streets. In case you haven’t driven by there to see for yourself what all the buzz is Around Lakeside, he recreated the old Birchard’s Merchantile and Confectionary Store similar to the original store when it was open for business back in the early 1900s.  It is across the street from the former Rail Road Depot.  

Artist, sign painter and muralist, David Ybarra, has been in Lakeside creating his magic on a 101-year-old store at the corner of River and Laurel Streets. In case you haven’t driven by there to see for yourself what all the buzz is Around Lakeside, he recreated the old Birchard’s Merchantile and Confectionary Store similar to the original store when it was open for business back in the early 1900s.  It is across the street from the former Rail Road Depot.  

Ybarra was hired by the Maine Avenue Revitalization Association (MARA) to bring the historic building back to life.  The front of the store is actually boarded up windows and doors but he painted the flat panels to look like you’re actually looking into the windows of an old fashion store.  He said this style is called “Trompe l’oeil” which in French means “Fool The Eye”.  It is very hard to pull off and takes a tremendous amount of time and detail painting.

On the West side of the building Ybarra painted a train scene in brown sepia colors.  He actually copied an old photo from the Lakeside Historical Society’s archives to create this very real scene of a train coming into Lakeside. You can actually see El Cap Mountain in the distance and an Indian boy peeking from the tall grasses in the foreground.  

 Ybarra said that while he was painting the candy store signs kids would come by to ask when they could come to buy ice cream and candy.  Folks would drive by and honk, wave and holler and give thumbs up, saying they really appreciated his work.

The owner of the building, Joe Podwoski, said he was tickled pink about the project. He has owned the old building for about 10 years and recently retrofitted it by putting in new beams, roof and flooring “To hold it together” he laughed.  The walls are 6 inch thick concrete.  MARA hired Tracy McMillen and Don Neeson to patch all the huge holes and cracks and paint the whole thing, creating a blank canvas for the artist to work on.  Just that prep work took 54 hours of hard labor.  Podwoski said he thinks it is a good thing for the town to restore the old buildings and he’s glad that MARA has done so many projects to improve the Historic District.

Chris Herzog, a board member of MARA said these murals create a great improvement to the neighborhood and she likes the idea of MARA collaborating with the property owners … helping them and helping the community.  She also said the topic of the mural is excellent and helps depict the history of the building as well as the real train depot building, which still stands across the street.  “Trains came to Lakeside eight times a day to drop off or pick up passengers, freight and our farmer’s produce and dairy products.  This was a transportation hub,” she said.

MARA was established in 1993 and has painted almost every building on Maine Avenue. They provide weekly sweeping and trash removal. Supervisor, Dianne Jacob assists them with Community Enhancement grants.  Artist, Ybarra, has painted almost all of the old fashion signage on the businesses and painted six murals.

Coming in October will be the under grounding of utilities. Power poles and wires come down making way for an upgraded Business District.  Community meetings will be held to introduce the business owners to the project.  To contact MARA call 443-1133.    

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