Look out Wikipedia, here come the Murals of York, courtesy of Roundtown Elementary third graders

David Carver poses in front of the York Manufacturing Co. mural, the first large-scale mural to be painted in 1995. It was later incorporated as one of the Murals of York. Carver has received credit with putting the idea for the murals as a tourism and economic development attraction on the table in the mid-1990s. It was modeled after a program in Chemainus, British Columbia. Interestingly, this photo shows deterioration in the mural’s condition after 15 years on the side of a York County Industrial Plaza, the former York Manufacturing/Borg-Warner site. (See additional photo below.) Also of interest: The Murals of York, Pa., revisited and Murals of York celebrate their 10th anniversary and Murals of York compared to century-old historical artifact.

There I was standing in front of several classes of astute Roundtown Elementary third graders.
I was telling them about the Murals of York.
At one point, I explained that the tallest of the large murals, the York Manufacturing Co. panel, stands 35 feet high.
And I pointed out that the York Fair mural on the side of the East Market Street parking garage was the widest of the large murals at 120 feet.
Then one inquisitive student – in a classroom full of such youngsters – asked me which mural was the smallest.
I paused, groping for the answer… .

Roundtown third-graders are doing their homework about the Murals of York as part of an ambitious project. They’ve invited a speaker from the York County Heritage Trust. Justine Landis, painter of the Cherry Lane mini-murals, part of the Murals of York set, also addressed the students. And they asked me to present.
They’re going to write a Wikipedia article on those panels, painted between 1995 and 2002 to promote tourism and economic development in the York area.
Can students that young undertake a project that large?
The short answer is yes, and Central York School District’s Roundtown can immediately point to an example of success – a website third graders created last year that provides still photographs, videos and other information on the murals.
Now they’re seeking to spread information about the murals to the rest of the world via Wikipedia.
No doubt they’ll do it with accuracy and aplomb.
As for the good question about the smallest murals, I came clean and told the student I didn’t know.
But the next time I addressed an audience, I said, I would have the answer.
Actually, I’m now before that audience.
The Made in York mural – the West Market Street panel showing a York-made Pullman automobile – measures in at 289 square feet.
No doubt the enterprising third-graders at Roundtown will check my math to ensure that my calculation of the 17-foot by 17-foot panel is accurate.
Questions and answers about the Wikipedia project
I posed several questions about the Roundtown mural project to teacher Amy Musone. She aggregated answers collected from colleagues Bethany Johnson, Tom Kramer, Heather Dusich and their students.
Here are edited questions and responses:
Q. How did you become involved in studying the murals? What is it that intrigues you most?
A. The interest in the murals started with a field trip to the Industrial Museum three years ago. We spent part of the day in the museum and the other part of the day on a walking mural tour. The murals were fascinating and rich in history. The murals connect to our district’s curriculum and state standards. It seemed logical to use the murals to teach the students because they are interesting and meaningful to the students’ lives.
(We’ve been going on that field trip ever since!)
Q. What is your class’s favorite mural? (or give the top 3).
A. We surveyed the students in our classrooms. The following three murals received the most votes. We included why students found them interesting. They also thought it was VERY COOL that you were in one of the murals.
Mini Murals: 37 students
• covers a lot of topics.
• not too big and not too small.
• gives a lot details.
• Mrs. Landis, the artist, came to speak to the classes.
• interesting stories that go along with murals.
Four Chaplains: 24 students
• easy to see portraits of each person.
• story behind mural: bravery, giving up lives for others.
• told a story of heroes that saved the lives of four other people.
York Manufacturing: 23
• cool that they could make lots of big ice.
• interesting to make ice without even a refrigerator.
3. What are the major points your class has gained from the collective presentation of the three speakers this fall?
York has a rich history that we should be proud of and celebrate. We are fortunate to have it visually displayed for us.
York has a long list of heroes including women and minorities and it is well documented.
The murals depict all kinds of people, even the funny ones like Mrs. Schreck.
Most of us had personal connections to some of the murals. Examples: family members who work at Harley; they know a person who is in the mural…you!; they have met Mrs. Landis; they have driven by murals; they have seen buildings depicted in the murals; family members visit and work at market house; student was adopted (Children’s Home connection).
The murals didn’t fulfill their original purpose, tourism. Instead they give us snapshots of our community’s history.
The murals are not meant to last. The intention was for them to last about 20 years. It is important for us to document their stories for generations to come.
Q. Do you use the murals to teach art, as well as history? Or putting it another way, how many different subjects do you explore via the murals.
A. We integrate language arts and social studies curriculum as we explore the murals. We have not integrated art, but you gave me an idea!
Q. What is the timetable for the Murals of York page for presentation on Wikipedia?
A. Students will begin working on the Wikipedia article after the new year. It will probably take two-three months for the project to be complete (reviewing speakers notes, reading/research, drafting, revising and editing, citing references, and creating a final draft) We will be writing collaboratively using Google Docs. That way a small group of students can work on one part of the article. For example, one group of students is going to write about how the mural project came about. Other groups will write about individual murals and others will write about the big ideas presented in the murals.
Q. Are there some subjects that have emerged from your class that they would have liked to see addressed or covered more by the large-scale and mini-murals? In other words, if they were picking the “canon” of 18 murals, what would they include that perhaps isn’t included.
A. We didn’t notice anything that wasn’t covered until you mentioned York’s involvement in the Civil War. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of history in the murals.

Q. What is the most surprising thing your class has learned about the murals?

A. These statements summarize the students’ thoughts:
• sad because only last for about 20 years, but a lot of people can see them for a long time (20 years is long for them).
• people in York did unexpected things.
• people did brave things even though their lives would be lost if they did it.
• appreciate all the time and effort it took to make the murals.
• people took pride in our community and wanted to share with others.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add about the mural or this project?
A. This project has piqued students’ interest, along with their families. Many families (probably close to 35) have volunteered to take their children to different murals and have their child take pictures of the murals (or have their child included in the picture). Students are sharing what they are learning and are looking forward to writing their own piece of history.
This photo, taken from the homepage of Roundtown Elementary’s Murals of York website, shows Roundtown third-graders who contributed to the project with Scott Royer, formerly with the York County Heritage Trust.

Also of interest:
The York Daily Record/Sunday News has a walking tour and full descriptions of all the murals at ydr.com/murals.
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square post on Google. For example, google: yorktownsquare Murals of York.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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