Town of Windsor inspired by first Art in the Park

Published 11:25 am Saturday, September 19, 2015

by Carita Richardson

For years the Town of Windsor has been looking for a way to distinguish itself from the other small towns on Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg that would encourage travelers to want to stop and visit our town. The critical importance of this was reinforced recently with the disclosure of VDOT plans to build a bypass around Windsor, and still the Town had no ideas of how to accomplish what seemed to be an impossible task.

And then along comes a small group of young girls between the ages of 11 and 13 who make up Windsor Girl Scout Troop 1105 with a very unique idea to beautify the Town, highlight the artistic talents of our residents and tell the town’s history. While researching our history, the Girl Scouts decided to show six buildings that played an important role in the first 100 years of Windsor on a mural. They then decided to use one of these six buildings, located on Route 460, as the canvass. What a brilliant idea!

The Girl Scouts realized they would need the help of an experienced muralist, and their troop leader, Jennifer Bak, began the task of contacting different muralists to ask for help. They all said the idea of doing six murals was too much for this small group and could not be done. Then she found renowned muralist Sam Welty. He listened to the Girl Scouts’ unique idea and was impressed by their research and passionate desire to help their community. His response was, “Together we will make this happen!” And they did!

On the west side of the mural building, we see the mural of the Ashburn House, and if we look diagonally westward across the railroad tracks, we see the actual house. There were scattered settlers around the Windsor area in the late 1600’s, but the town known as Windsor Station did not start forming until the Norfolk and Pacific Railroad was built with Windsor designated as a mail drop station in 1859. A young man named Alexander Ashburn worked as a contractor for the railroad. After hearing about the plans for a station in this area, Alexander decided to build a house here; thus, the Ashburn House was built in the 1850’s and is considered the oldest house in the Town of Windsor. Legend has the reason the house has two very similar “front” porches was because Mr. Ashburn built the porch facing what is now Bank Street thinking that was the side on which the railroad would be built. When the railroad was actually constructed, it was on the opposite side so he built another front porch on that side. Watching the train arrive was apparently the highlight of the day then. The mural shows the transportation of that day was a horse and buggy.

The second mural shows the original Windsor Train Station with a locomotive coming in to the station. Unfortunately, the Windsor Train Station no longer exists, but it played a very important part in the development of the Town.

The third mural depicts the first church, the Windsor Congregational Christian Church. The need for a church was recognized by Sara Watkins Ashburn, the wife of Alexander, and was constructed as a white wooden building on what is now Bank Street. In 1913 it was put on logs and moved to its current location on Court Street where it was destroyed by fire in the early 1950’s. A new brick church was built on the same site and still stands there today.

The fourth mural is on the east side of the building and is the Windsor Volunteer Fire Department, first authorized by Town Council in 1947. That building is now Windsor Town Hall. This mural features a 1948 fire engine that was the department’s first vehicle. This fire engine has been restored and is often seen at town events and parades.

The next mural depicts the first car dealership built in 1938. The selection of this building was very important to represent the many businesses that made up the early town. It is also the same building that was chosen for the mural canvas.

The last mural shows the original Farmers Bank that was chartered in 1919 and built on the corner of 460 and Bank Street. It helped finance many of the businesses that made up the Town through the years. In 1989, the bank constructed a new building on Windsor Boulevard for its offices.

As part of their project,the Girl Scouts have made a booklet with the history of each building for anyone who would like to have one. There are some available at Town Hall.

The Girl Scouts of Troop 1105 have given us a beautiful, unique and interesting identity upon which we hope to continue building. It has also sparked an appreciation of the many talented artists of all ages in our community. For example, a beautiful piece of artwork depicting the world globe now stands in front of the mural building. It was donated by Instructor Shirk from his award-winning welding classes at the Pruden Center. We hope to have more street art in front of businesses in the future. The Town was also inspired to have our first Art in the Park silent auction in May showcasing the work of our talented artists and raising money for our Community Center.

At the September meeting of the Windsor Town Council, we honored each of the Windsor Girl Scouts and their leaders with resolutions commending them for making a difference in our Town and inspiring each of us as we work together to make Windsor a place where dreams do become a reality. THANK YOU, WINDSOR GIRL SCOUTS!

CARITA RICHARDSON is the mayor for the Town of Windsor. She can be reached at 242-6606.