PORT ANGELES — Three iconic murals will continue to tell the story of Port Angeles for decades to come thanks to a restoration project taking place this summer.
Nor’wester Rotary Club of Port Angeles has teamed up with local artist Cory Ench to breathe new life into the 1990s murals that have slowly faded, cracked and smeared from exposure to the sun, salt air and vehicle exhaust.
John Brewer, Nor’wester Rotary Mural Committee chairman and retired Peninsula Daily News publisher and editor, said the estimated $45,600 project began in mid-April and is scheduled to be completed by the end of August.
“The murals are really important,” Brewer said in a Monday interview.
“They give artistry, they give vibrancy, they give a vitality to the downtown area.”
Ench is an accomplished Port Angeles artist who created the “MV Kalakala” mural downtown and the “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” mural at City Pier.
He also has painted murals for the National Park Service and created posters for major festivals like Burning Man, Brewer said.
“We believe Ench’s work will extend the three murals’ lives for at least another 20 years,” Brewer said.
The three murals that are being touched up and re-sealed in Rotary project are:
• “MV Kalakala,” which captures the iconic art-deco ferry that once plied the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Port Angeles and Victoria after years of service in Seattle.
Ench completed the life-like mural in 1995.
“The ‘MV Kalakala’ mural is a favorite for photographers with its 3D-like people and dog,” Brewer wrote on the Nor’wester Rotary Club of Port Angeles’ Facebook page.
The Kalakala mural is near Laurel Street on the south-facing side of the former Bank of America building at 102 E. Front St.
It is dedicated to the late auto dealer Howard “Mac” Ruddell, who led the Rotary’s mural project.
• “Sluicing the Hogback” is a giant, 94-by-20-foot mural designed by the late Hank Krueger and completed by Krueger and the late Tim Quinn in 1997.
The mural depicts the raising of the downtown streets to fix flooding issues in 1914.
High-pressure hoses were used to wash soil from the hill behind the present Red Lion Hotel into forms to raise the streets above the high-tide line.
The original storefronts of yesteryear are now basements today and part of the subterranean Port Angeles Underground Heritage Tour.
“Sluicing” was painted on metal panels is on the west side of the Sassy Cat Salon and Clothing Boutique building at 105 E. First St.
• “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” is a two-scene mural painted by Ench in 1997 and 1998 that graces the east side of the Feiro Marine Life Center building at 315 N. Lincoln St. on City Pier.
It shows a thriving Lower Elwha Klallam village near the mouth of Ennis Creek before white settlers arrived.
A second scene depicts the early days of the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony, which settled at Ennis Creek in the late 1800s.
Ench had to replace and repaint the lower panels on “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” because they had begun to rot.
Meanwhile, the 1999 “Olympic Visions” mural behind the Conrad Dyer Memorial Fountain at the corner First and Laurel streets was repainted and sealed by Quinn, the original artist, and Jackson Smart in 2010.
The Olympic National Park-themed mural features blended scenes of Rialto Beach, Sol Duc Falls and Seven Lakes Basin. It has held up to the elements and is not part of the mural restoration project.
Brewer said the four murals were created for the community and were funded by Nor’wester Rotary and donations from dozens of local residents.
“The murals quickly became community icons, adding color, vibrancy and vitality and spotlighting our unique history,” Brewer said in a Tuesday email.
“They engage both tourists and business visitors and entice people passing through to stop and see what else Port Angeles has to offer.
“The murals are among the most photographed artworks in our city and important stops on the Underground and Heritage Tours,” Brewer added.
“The mural image of I’e’nis is used by the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe on a map of historic Klallam villages.”
More than 20 years of exposure to the elements has resulted in desaturation, color changes, streaking and fading of the three murals, Brewer said.
Ench said regular clear coating will help extend the life of the murals.
“You’ve got to keep an eye on that, because if the clear coat starts failing too much then it’s harder to fix it,” Ench said while touching up a mural Wednesday.
“It keeps the paint from oxidizing. It keeps the moisture from getting into the panels. It has UV protection in it.”
“Sluicing” has undergone an extensive surface cleaning and is being re-painted with a high-quality paint and special sealant to repel ultraviolet light, water and graffiti, Brewer said.
“Kalakala” and “I’e’nis/Ennis Creek” are also being touched up and re-sealed.
Ench noted small cracks in the concrete “Kalakala” was painted on.
“I’m going to have to clear coat that twice, and also seal the cracks in the concrete,” Ench said.
“I’m going to focus on that one in July.”
The city of Port Angeles awarded Nor’wester Rotary a $19,756 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for restoration of the downtown murals.
Clallam County also authorized $5,000 in lodging tax funds for the project, Brewer said.
The Rotary club is collecting donations, digging into reserves and selling color prints of the murals to cover the remaining cost of the restoration.
Prints are available at Odyssey Bookshop (114 W. Front St.), Port Book and News (104 E. First St.) and Imagine It Framed (625 E. Front St.).
The cost is $10 per print or $30 for all four. All proceeds go to the mural restoration project.
To donate, contact Brewer at 360-452-4639 or [email protected]
“So many people have helped on this,” Brewer added.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].