Tremonton has become well-known for its distinctive public art murals, painted on the outside walls of many prominent buildings. Tremonton’s legendary beginnings in public arts began humbly, when A Mountain Mural was painted on the wall of a scale house, at a site of one of the first grain mills in Tremonton.
According to local legend, the paintings of Mountain Mural and other murals are attributed to a mystery artist who painted several landscape murals on buildings around Tremonton in the 1970s. His work always featured mountains, streams and wildlife, and often showcased Wyoming’s famous Grand Tetons, in Grand Teton National Park, located near Jackson Hole. The legend describes the mystery muralist as a hippie, who supposedly made paint brush bristles from his own hair. Although the majority of these murals have been destroyed, three of these Mountain Murals are still on the walls of Tremonton’s buildings.
Jason Nessen, a local self-taught artist, has added his works to the city’s collection. His first work was a tribute to the Midland Hotel, a once proud local landmark. In 2003, the David Holmgren family commissioned Nessen to paint the Memorial Mural of the Midland Hotel adjacent to the property where the Midland Hotel once stood. Built in 1914 by David Holmgren, Tremonton mayor from 1924 to 1927, this grand hotel stood on the corner of Main Street and 100 West. The prominent landmark was advertised by its slogan, “Well Furnished Rooms & Meals à la Carte and of the Best.” The Hotel and surrounding buildings were destroyed by a fire in the early morning hours of January 31, 1995 and Midland Square now stands in its place.
The impressive mural caught the eyes of local business owners, and within a few years, several of them commissioned Nessen to paint murals on their buildings. A sense of community pride and a culture of art began to form around these larger-than-life paintings.
In 2013, Tremonton City commissioned Nessen to paint the Downtown Welcome mural on the east side of the Bear River Pioneer Museum at 11 E. Main St., depicting Tremonton’s Main Street in the 1920s. Created from a photograph provided to the city by Barry Cole in 2003, it commemorates the Tremonton City Centennial. Completed in 2014, it is located on the east wall of the Bear River Valley Museum building.
Tremonton City has commissioned eight more 8 murals since 2013, telling stories from the Bear River Valley, which complement its vibrant downtown area. The Sports Mural, located on 600 N. of Tremonton’s North Park highlights local athletes who played at North Park during their youth. It also honors the Bear River High School Ladies’ Softball team, which won nine 3-A state titles including 5-peat, 3A state championships from 2008 – 2012.
Two murals, side by side, on the north side, just west of 200 East Main Street celebrate 100 years of transportation: The Space Shuttle Launch A Bit of History Tremonton Murals and The Driving of the Golden Spike murals are on adjacent buildings, spanning 1869’s completion of the Transcontinental Railroad to 1969’s first landing on the moon. Both events trace their roots to accomplishments attained near Promontory, UT- located just a few short miles west of Tremonton.
Tremonton’s latest masterpiece, “The Candy Bomber,” was completed in 2020 by Erik Burke, of Reno, NV. It tells the story of Gail Halvorsen, who grew up in nearby Garland, graduating from Bear River High School. He joined the United States Army Air Forces, during World War II, where Gail became a pilot, attaining the rank of colonel. During the Berlin Airlift at the conclusion of WWII, Colonel Halvorson piloted C-47 and C-54 cargo planes, dropping supplies to feed starving Berlin residents. Having noticed destitute children on the other side of the barbed wire fence, Gail was prompted to share two small sticks of gum with the children through the fence. Quickly Col. Halversen’s vision mushroomed into a mass effort of procuring candy for the children. The candy was attached to hundreds of miniature parachutes, then unloaded from the cargo plane, floating gently to the excited crowds gathered below. Gail became internationally famous as The Candy Bomber, waggling his plane’s wings to signify to the children when he carried another load of sweets. He eventually dropped over 23 tons of candy, giving hope to the people of Berlin..
More than just a local hero, Gail was honored by Tremonton City on his 100th birthday in 2020. The community is proud to honor this legend of a man, who lived his life as a pillar of hope. His captivating mural is located just west oi Midland Square, south of Main Street on 200 W. in downtown Tremonton. Pick up a Walking Tour brochure from Tremonton City’s office, and learn more of his inspiring story, along with brief histories of all of Tremonton’s murals.
50 years after their humble beginnings, Tremonton’s murals continue to amass award-winning recognition. They were honored as Utah’s Best in State- Public Art Award for their public art collection each of the past 5 years and won the BOSS (Best of State Statue) Award in 2020.
written by Zack Lefever