It’s often said of a place with a rich history, “If these walls could talk, what a story they would tell.” Perhaps nowhere is this old saying truer than in the City of Terrell, where thanks to the concerted efforts of local artists, civic organizations and business owners, walls are telling the stories of Terrell’s rich and colorful past.
The Murals of Terrell, Texas, project began through informal discussions nearly 20 years ago among members of the Terrell Downtown Association, according to Gayle Harris, owner of Books and Crannies, 209 W. Moore Ave. The project now features a series of larger-than-life paintings on the sides of businesses in historic downtown Terrell.
“We just thought it would be a neat way to showcase the history because there are so many interesting tidbits of history that relate to Terrell,” Harris said. “We just thought this would bring attention to things that have gone on here that people don’t normally know about.”
The first of the murals, completed in 2012, titled “Stearman Kaydet PT 17 Biplane,” is located at the northwest corner of Frances and Moore Avenues. Painted by Sunny Delipsey and sponsored by the Terrell Heritage Society, the mural depicts a British training pilot flying a biplane over a cotton field with the No. 1 British Flying Training School (BTFS) hangar shown in the background. Terrell’s BTFS was the first of six civilian training schools located in the United States. The school, opened in 1941 and operated through the end of World War II in 1945, trained more than 2,000 pilots of Great Britain’s Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Force.
Another mural, titled “Colonel Green and His 1899 Automobile” located at the southeast corner of Moore Avenue and Rockwall Street, highlights several modes of transportation that were influential in Terrell’s development – most notably the railroad and the automobile. The railroad’s arrival in Terrell in 1873, coincided with the city’s incorporation hat same year and allowed for the transportation of cotton and other goods to distant markets. One of Terrell’s earliest railroad executives, Col. E H.R. Green, president of the Midland Railroad that ran north-south through Terrell, is also shown driving one of two early motor cars that had been built in St. Louis and shipped to Terrell in 1899.
Other murals in the series celebrate the efforts and dedication of the Terrell Volunteer Fire Department; the political and business accomplishments of Gov. Oscar Branch Colquitt (1861-1940), who purchased two Terrell newspapers and combined them into one – the Times-Star – and also founded the First National Bank of Terrell; and the 1893 coming of the Sells Brothers Circus and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to Terrell when more than 10,000 attendees packed the downtown area to see the spectacle. The project also includes a series of movie posters from the early days of Hollywood in the 1920s, many of which would have been shown in one of Terrell’s three downtown movie theaters operating at the time.
“The Approaching Herd”, completed in 2018 at 227 N. Adelaide Street, is a reproduction of a 1902 painting of a herd of Texas Longhorn cattle by renowned Western artist and Terrell resident Frank Reaugh.
The list of local murals continues to grow yearly with Hard Bodies Gym showcasing vintage sports at 115 W. Moore St., a tribute to Jamie Foxx located in the 100 block of South Alley, a portrait of local legend JT “Cowboy” Pease added behind Queen Donuts and The Wall of Honor at 113 W. Grove.
Additional murals are currently planned for the years ahead, including one honoring U.S. Olympic, Paralympic Hall of Famer Randy Snow and Fred Gray, A mural in honor of Fred Gray, an American civil rights attorney who served on the SwCC board of trustees at 212 E. Moore Avenue.