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Chillicothe, Missouri: Murals and Sliced Bread


Library mural, opposite Livingston County Library, Chillicothe

Chillicothe, Missouri, a busy town that seems bigger than it is, stakes its claim to the world as the home of sliced bread—which it is, but later for that—and for the stunning array of 25 wall murals that adorn its downtown buildings.


The sliced bread claim goes back to the 1920s, when a local baker and an Iowa inventor collaborated on the first machine that could slice and wrap single loaves of bread. Sliced bread existed before, wrapped bread existed before, but Chillicothe is where they came together.


Fast forward to the 1990s and the murals, a project that pulls in collaborators including local development organizations, the Rotary Club, City Hall and a local artist named Kelly Poling. The first mural, showing historic Webster Street, was painted on the side of the El Toro restaurant.

P1320513That's a mural behind the cars, not a block of stores!

All of the murals highlight places and events in local and area history, and many are tributes to former local businesses and institutions, including the Chillicothe Business College, once a large training site for office workers. Below that, barber scenes on a still-operating barbershop and a long-vanished clothing store. Note the figures on the (fake) balcony, and the popcorn wagon next door.P1320479P1320481P1320486

The railroads helped make Chillicothe an important regional commerce hub, with four major railroads passing through town. The third image, mixing old cars in the mural with real ones in the foreground, shows the former Milwaukee Depot rail station.


With all that business, comes banking. The Citizens Bank mural below faces the still-existing bank's drive-thru windows. First National, below it, isn't a mural—just an elegantly-painted survivor.



The rural areas around the city show up in the murals as well; some of their produce would have been processed in area mills such as this one. Other local industries included bricks. Midland Brick operated until the late 20th century.


Not a mural... but worth a look...


'A Window in Time' connects images of five multi-generational local businesses. Others appear in postcard-like images sharing a wall.


The longest mural in the series, just below, yields several images from up closer; the mural's title focuses on the truck at the right from the Edge Mar Dairy.


In a quiet off-street square, murals depicts a quiet off-street square, with fountain. Things might be a bit livelier at the nearby tavern with the mural windows.


Nearby, a series of murals highlights the town's art center and the work of the arts groups that help plan and promote new murals as well as live performances and exhibits.P1320518P1320519P1320521

Near that, a mural depicts small scenes from local life and of children growing up, going to school, playing and taking part in scouting activities.


And, in a mural too wide for a single image, children at the riverbank prepare to try their luck at fishing, while an older angler fishes from a boat at midstream.


There are a few other murals about town; I missed some. It was a rainy morning, and I struggled to find opportunities between showers, but it was a very pleasant morning, and a prelude to an enjoyable visit to the Grand River Historical Society Museum, of which more another time!


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