Chamber Brings Historic Mural Project to Fulton

FULTON, NY – More than 100 years ago the city of Fulton’s strategic location on the Oswego River and the success of the Erie Canal system played a major role in the city’s growth as factories were built and commerce flourished along the Erie Canal.

Those exciting times are part of the rich heritage of Fulton that will be brought to life in a colorful mural that will soon overlook the river and the Towpath Trail.

Artist Ben Jerred, seated at the same bench that his grandfather, Charles, once worked at works on sketches for what will become the first mural in the Fulton Historic Mural Project. The mural will depict a 19th century view of the Oswego River with the Hunter Arms factory, where Charles Jerred once worked, in the background.
Artist Ben Jerred, seated at the same bench that his grandfather, Charles, once worked at works on sketches for what will become the first mural in the Fulton Historic Mural Project. The mural will depict a 19th century view of the Oswego River with the Hunter Arms factory, where Charles Jerred once worked, in the background.

The mural, entitled ‘Commerce Along the Erie Canal’ will be painted on the south wall of the Salvation Army building on South First Street in downtown Fulton.

Initiated through the efforts of Fulton Savings Bank and the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, this mural will be the first of what organizers hope will be many as the Fulton Historic Mural project is officially under way.

Committee member Nancy Kush Ellis of Fulton Savings Bank is excited about being able to bring the historic mural project to Fulton and explains how it came about.

“The idea for the project came up in a casual conversation one day at the bank while we were discussing the many improvements that Fulton Savings Bank is doing to the area around our main office on South First Street. Our president and CEO, Mike Pollock, suggested that the south wall of the Salvation Army building would be an excellent location for a mural. After some discussion I contacted Jeanne Farrell at the chamber to find out how the Oswego mural project was done and what we had to do to start a similar project in Fulton. “I’ve always admired how attractive the murals in Oswego are and I thought why don’t we spruce up our city and have our own mural project,” she explained.

Following a meeting with representatives of the Art Association of Oswego, the chamber, and the Fulton Historical Society, a committee was soon formed and with the financial support of Fulton Savings Bank, the Fulton Historic Mural Project was a reality.

Pollock, who is proud of Fulton Savings Bank’s role in bringing the Historic Mural Project to Fulton, sees this first mural as the perfect complement to the work that has already been done in the area.

“We are committed to the Canal Landing business neighborhood and further beautifying the area. Thanks to our partnership with the city we have seen a number of significant improvements with Fulton Savings Bank supplying materials such as lights, curbing and paving stone while the city has provided trees, street signs and labor. Now, with the help of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, we have the last piece in the revitalization of the area in front of Fulton Savings Bank. The mural will enhance Fulton’s Riverfront Walkway Project by memorializing the river’s history and capturing the activities that took place on and around the river in the past. I want to thank the city of Fulton and the chamber for their assistance with this project,” said Pollock.

Once the committee settled on the theme for the first mural, ‘Commerce along the Erie Canal,’ they began their search for the artist whose vision and talent would be able to capture the theme.

As luck would have it, the artist they searched for lived only blocks away.

Following an open solicitation process the committee reviewed the renderings submitted and chose a design that not only succinctly captured the theme they were looking for but also touches on a family history that exemplifies Fulton’s close ties to its past.

Fulton native Ben Jerred, an art teacher at Volney Elementary, grew up listening to his late grandfather, Charles Jerred, talk about his work as a master engraver at the Hunter Arms factory in Fulton and he remembered the engraving room that was upstairs at his grandpa’s house.

Established in the late 1800s, Hunter Arms was a manufacturer of guns, specifically the famous L. C. Smith double barrel hammer gun, or shotgun.

He also remembers his father, Charles Jr., hammering away in the engraving room, as he also worked as a metal engraver.

When Jerred heard that the committee was looking for an artist, he had the ideal vision of what the mural should look like.

After reviewing his sketches, the committee agreed.

His depiction of a view of the river bustling with canal boats and the Hunter Arms factory, which was located along the river, in the background was the obvious choice.

From Jerred’s perspective, this project is much more than just another painting.

It will be a labor of love for his community and a tribute to his beloved grandfather.

“I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity,” said Jerred. “It will be a fun learning experience and I am looking forward to the challenge.”

The mural will be Jerred’s first attempt at a painting of this magnitude.

He has been busy preparing for the project and has done extensive research regarding the materials and techniques necessary to produce an outside mural.

Howard Rose of Howard Rose Art Signs is acting as a consultant on the project and is sharing his knowledge of outdoor painting with Jerred.

He, too, is excited about the mural project and anxious to see the painting begin.

“This is a great project,” said Rose. “Any time you can help the visual impact of our city it’s a good thing. I like the design and the historic theme is appropriate as the canal is strong part of our city’s heritage. I have been working with Ben and discussing what paints work best with outside walls and what techniques are best to apply it. It’s one thing to paint on a canvas but a big wall is much different. Artists have their own unique style, however the challenge is how do you adapt that style to a big wall. Ben’s excited about the project and I’m sure he’ll do a fine job on the mural.”

In preparation for the mural, Rowlee Construction of Fulton has been busy resurfacing the wall and properly preparing it for painting.

They have also been working with Jerred regarding scaffolding and the physical challenges of the project.

Jerred, who is thankful for the assistance he has received regarding the project, said that he is up to the challenge and can’t wait to actually begin painting the mural.

He said that he would be using acrylic paints for the mural, as they are fast-drying and durable, and had determined that he would be using more than 25 different colors in the mural.

He added that the mural will take approximately three weeks to paint and anticipates having it completed sometime in September.

As he sits in his studio, working on the same desk that his grandfather once worked on, you can almost feel his joy and excitement as he works on the sketch and painstakingly goes over every detail of the painting.

“The inclusion of the Hunter Arms factory is a tribute to my grandfather and the history of our city,” added Jerred. “It’s not every day that people find art really useful, so when I find a way to help people realize the importance of art I get excited. I grew up in Fulton and this mural project is a way for me to give back and share my love of art with the community. I want to make something that people are proud of and like looking at.”