Horse and Sulky Mural

By Gail Hoar, guest contributor

Original mural
When Ingrid Howard was a young child, she remembers riding the bus to school and looking for the Horse and Sulky painting on the side of Intervale Hardware. She explained, “I remember that painting being really important to me.  It was a unique part of Wilton, something that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.  To me it signified that you were coming into downtown Wilton”.

The painting was created by Carl Nelson who was a native of Lyndeborough.  He used a Currier and Ives print for his inspiration. Nelson was commissioned to do the work by T. R. Langdell when he owned the building and ran it as an auction house. He and his wife were passionately involved with harness racing and he wanted to commemorate that interest in paint. It most likely was painted sometime in the 1940’s although no one, including Mrs. Langdell, seems to remember exactly when.   

The building was later sold to Richard Tuttle in the 1960’s. By this time the work was becoming quite faded.  Tuttle tried to find someone to repaint the mural, but the wood was so deteriorated by the weather that no one at the time was willing to take on the task, fearing that the paint would not last. He researched ways to save it, but finally had to just paint it over.

Current muralBut that is not the end of the story.  The mural lives on today.

The idea started in 2002 when I was at a Wilton Main Street meeting after the town had first been awarded that title.  Ingrid Howard was also there and began reminiscing about the former mural while we were looking for a project that people in town would appreciate. A mural restoration seemed to fit into those plans.  People looked towards me since they knew I had already tackled other artistic endeavors and also knew that I had a strong connection to the local artists' community.  I agreed and cajoled several artists from Wilton and Milford to take on restoring a mural that had always been recognized as a part of Wilton's history. This group included Joan Tierney, Joan Melcher, Martha Green, and Barbara Maher from Wilton with Paula Pestana, and Sue Peterson from Milford and a few others I fear I may have forgotten. 

We decided we couldn’t possibly paint standing on platforms along-side the building, but if we used several sheets of heavily- primed marine plywood cut to shape, painted and thickly varnished, we could create a reasonable facsimile of the original mural that would outlast most of time’s ravages.

The first step we easily handled when Currier Lumber offered to donate the marine plywood along with some of the paint. Richard Rantamaki, who owned Intervale Hardware, donated whatever other supplies we needed and we were off to work in the upper, then empty, third-floor of the Wilton Falls Building. We hauled the plywood up on the building’s freight elevator., created the “cartoon” of the horse and sulky on the primed plywood, had it cut to shape by our willing volunteer, Andy Hoar, re-primed the sides and began to paint.

One thing we wanted to add were references to Wilton and the Monadnock region. Each artist picked a building or object they wanted to take on as an individual project while we all added to the background scenery and we painted – for weeks and weeks and weeks. The different sections were placed against walls so we could not only see what we were doing up close, but could step back for a better perspective on how it would look when hung on the building.

Mural in processWhen we finally decided it was finished, we called the Wilton Telephone Company and within a few days, several employees commandeered a couple of bucket-trucks and firmly attached it in place. It now greets people traveling south down Route 31 from Lyndeborough to Wilton just as the original did so many years ago.




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