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Debate mural headed for museum wall

Stephen Douglas (center) looks askance at Abraham Lincoln in this section of the Ottawa mural celebrating the first of their 1858 debates.
Stephen Douglas (center) looks askance at Abraham Lincoln in this section of the Ottawa mural celebrating the first of their 1858 debates.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debate mural in Ottawa — now adjacent to Washington Square where the historic 1858 debate took place — appears headed for a new home at the south wall of the Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage Museum.

Mayor Bob Eschbach broke the news at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

He said he had attended a 4 p.m. meeting of the Ottawa Visitors Center Board’s mural committee.

“The consensus was that if the mural were to be moved that the ideal location would be at the city’s history and scouting museum,” Eschbach said. “The Lincoln and Douglas debate is probably the most important historical thing that happened in Ottawa, and (the mural) would be very appropriate at the museum.

The report was prompted by questions at the council meeting from Ottawa businesswoman and resident Katie Troccoli about the mural’s future.

“It’s not just paint on the wall,” she said.

The mural’s removal is necessitated by plans to develop the building it is attached to that include placing doors and windows in the wall.

The OVC Board has discus-
sed putting the mural panels
in storage.

But, Eschbach said, “the committee doesn’t really want to move the mural twice: Every time they move it there could be potential damage.”

Commissioner Wayne Eichel-
kraut, who also is the chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said the mural will be a draw for the Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage Museum.

Both he and Eschbach noted the mural would work well with the new bicycle and walking path along Canal Street, which runs in front of the museum.

“I will work as hard as I can to get the (museum) board to accept that mural,” Eschbach said. “But I think that would be the perfect place right now.”

“I know that it’s not downtown but it would be great for even the scouting museum.

“I just don’t want to see it go into storage and be destroyed,” Troccolli said. “I want to make it clear, too, I’m not against a developer who wants to invest money in our community and improve the place.

“But i think sometimes when you’re not from here they don’t comprehend the things that have happened to make Ottawa the wonderful city that it is and the deep roots all of us who have lived here all of our lived have — and how much we care.”

Museum Executive Director Mollie Perrot, the chairwoman of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, was pleased with the news.

“I think it’s a great way to emphasize we encompass Ottawa’s history as well as Girl Scout, Boy Scout and Camp Fire heritage,” she said. “I remind folks about our display of Alice Fredericks’ grandmother’s dress, worn at the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa.”

Eschbach said city Building Official Mike Sutfin will investigate how the mural panels can be safely removed for relocation. The first panel to be removed will be on the mural’s left side, and not the right side panel with images of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.

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