Written by Gail Gates
“This town of churches and dreams; this town I thought I would lose myself in, with its backward ways and winding roads leading to nowhere; but, I found myself instead.
Hey! What’s that on the side of the building? Nah, not a bird, plane, or Superman. If you’re driving through the small towns along Old Hwy 61 it might be a super-cool ad from yesteryear, a map of the area (for those who want to go old school and toss the GPS), or a depiction of life as it was “back in the day.”
What am I talking about? A little thing I call “building art.” Somehow paintings on structures—usually buildings that are feeling their age a bit—spark pure nostalgia and a touch of innocence. There are stories to be told, pride to be felt, and products to be sold one brush stroke at a time.
Here are a few places with building art that I am aware of along Old Hwy. 61:
North Branch: At the intersection of Hwy. 95 and Old Hwy. 61 you will come upon a stoplight. If heading north on Old Hwy 61, turn your head to the right and you will see a large Coca Cola painting on the side of a brick building that now holds the Boyce Law Office. I tried to do a little research to find out when it was first painted, but a lack of time kept me from getting the full scoop. Word has it North Branch’s Beautification Committee is looking for an artist willing to repaint the image to keep it in full vintage splendor.
Pine City: Hmmm…how to describe this…driving south on Old Hwy 61, this image stretches across two sections of a building just south of the Snake River Bridge and the iconic Voyageur Statue. There are painted images on other buildings around town, as well. I believe they are most easily seen heading south.
Moose Lake: Art’s Diner. A generalized, friendly, map of the area webs across the side of the building. Grab some food and take it in!
Mahtowa: You need to go. Seriously. I LOVE this building, the owners, the wurst puns ever, and the brats and wurst and cheese and…
There are more, but I invite you go searching for your own surprises. When you spot “building art,” snap a selfie and send your photos and/or descriptions to our website. We would love to share them with other fans of Old Hwy. 61.