Finding the “lost” murals of Clarence “Charlie” Hewes

Today started a bit rough, as a migraine sidelined me while the guys headed on to see the trabajo rustico bridges of McCourtie Park.  Reports are that the 17 bridges are among the best that they have ever seen.  Be sure to read Randy’s blog to learn more.

Once I was able to operate heavy machinery, I headed to Lansing to meet the guys at the Lansing Water Pump Station.  Awhile back, I had come across a brief mention of some murals in “Rainbows in the Sky: The Folk Art of Michigan in the Twentieth Century” by C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell.  
I then called the PR director, Mark Nixon, to ask about the murals.  He told me of some amazing murals that were part of the WPA, and created by jackson Pollock’s brother Charles, among others.  But at the time, he hadn’t heard about Charlie Hewes’ cretions.  But lucky for us, he started to ask around and indeed, there were some murals in the basement of the old pumping station, but not open to the public, nor were did he thing that they in very good shape.

After a tour of the great Art Deco building, Mark and Carrie handed us hard hats and lead us to the humid and muddy bowels of the pump station to see these amazing murals. 

Here is an account of Charlie’s murals (from the aforementioned article):
“The last example comes from the artistic work of Clarence “Charlie” Hewes, a relief operator who worked at the Board of Water and Light Pumping Station in Lansing, Michigan. Hewes once gave the following account of the work responsibilities which afforded him an opportunity to spend time at work painting:
“When the load drops off after eight or nine at night, there’s not much to do. The only two men here are an operator and a fireman, and they can usually tell if something goes wrong by the sound.” Hewes, therefore, turned his spare moments over to painting and began decorating walls, columns, pipes, trashcans, and meters in the Cedar Street Station. His murals include a Garden of Eden, a Madonna and Child, cartoon characters such as Popeye, naval ships, and depictions of every water station in the greater Lansing area. Columns are lined with the names of all his fellow workers at the pumping station…”

Randy Mason emerging from the basement

The murals in the main building

In the main building…note that the handles are from old Oldsmobiles, which were built in Lansing.

The Charlie Hewes mural of the USS Michigan.

Mike Murphy, Carrie, Mark Nixon, Don the Camera Guy and Randy Mason