Mural replica almost done at Taneytown City Hall

Artist expected to finish painting this month

November 19, 2001|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Taneytown has spent the last several years trying to reconnect with a past that saw its downtown bustling with commerce and activity.

Soon, the city will have a visual reminder of that era - in the form of a mural. The painting is a replica of the Zile's Ice Cream sign that once adorned the side of the building that is now City Hall.

Artist Lewis Schlitt, who designed a mural on Locust Lane in downtown Westminster, will finish painting this month, said Nancy McCormick, Taneytown's economic development director.

Taneytown last year became Maryland's sixth Main Street Community, a program that helps towns and small cities plan the aesthetic and business futures of their downtown areas.

Taneytown commissioned the sign to give residents a visible indicator that the city is progressing with its revitalization efforts, McCormick said. The city won a $6,000 grant from the state's Main Street Improvement Program to pay for the mural.

"We wanted to show we're not just a bunch of old batties meeting once a month," McCormick said. "This is a showcase, a conversation piece."

The sign, a relic of the 1920s, was obscured for most of the century by a neighboring building that was added to City Hall. When the city tore that building down, the fading mural became visible again.

The sign features the Zile's name, a fudge sundae and four ice cream cones - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and mint. It occupies almost the entire side of the two-story building.

Though the sign has no particularly fascinating history, reviving it seemed a way to evoke an era when roadside billboards and strip malls did not dominate American commerce, McCormick said.

Arthur M. Zile made his ice cream in Westminster beginning in the late 19th century. The old Central Hotel in Taneytown served the ice cream, and hotel owners John Leister and W. Rein Motter commissioned the sign to attract travelers with a sweet tooth.

Motter's son, George, still lives in Taneytown but said he doesn't remember many specifics about the sign.

Alice Unger, a participant in the revitalization program, said she knew the daughter of Roy Strine, who painted the sign.

"It's very exciting to have this living sort of history in town," Unger said.

Taneytown will hold a formal presentation ceremony for the mural in the spring when the weather warms up, she said.

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