Royal Oak Roots Mural

Royal Oak Roots Mural

Click to enlarge mural image.

Royal Oak Roots

Just in time for Royal Oak's 100 anniversary, an interactive public art project, sponsored by the Royal Oak Commission for the Arts (ROCFA), has found a home in the halls of City Hall.

Royal Oak Roots, a 5-by-8-foot ceramic mosaic mural, was created by hometown artists Laurie Eisenhardt and Marcia Hovland. The pair received a stipend from ROCFA’s inaugural artist laureate program to create a public arts project.

The mural features more than 400 pieces and includes figures and elements from the city’s 100-year history – all chosen by Eisenhardt and Hovland.

Here’s who the artists picked and why:

  1. Orson Starr arrived in RO in 1831 and began one of the first manufacturing businesses, producing cowbells drawing a national following among westward-bound pioneers. 
  2. John Almon Starr, eldest son of Orson Starr, started his brick and tile company in 1866 after working in the bell business. 
  3. Gilbert and Elizabeth Hamer, slaves in Covington, KY fled for their freedom using the Underground Railroad. They arrived in Canada but eventually came to Royal Oak and were employed by the Starr family. They purchased seven acres of land; one acre given to each of their six children.  
  4. William Hilzinger, a multi-faceted entrepreneur came to the US at age 16 becoming a cobbler. He established a wholesale butter and milk business supplying retail dealers in Detroit with these products. He had a keen interest in civic affairs. He created an electric light plant in the city. 
  5. Elisabeth Briggs was our first paid librarian.
  6. Sherman Stevens brought the railroad to Royal Oak purchasing land from 11 mile to Lincoln and West Street to Troy Street. He plated and sold lots knowing a commercial center would develop there.
  7. William Sullivan created the first funeral home, which is still operated by the family, making it the oldest business in the city.
  8. Harley Wheeler built 30-foot schooners on Main St. He chose Royal Oak to be close to the tamarack trees that came from marshes in the area. These boats were hauled all the way to Detroit.
  9. Frederick D. Madison was an architect who designed the still existing Washington Square building and Baldwin Theatre among others. 
  10. The Logger illustrates the logging industry that capitalized on Michigan’s abundant white pines.
  11. The Fur Trader depicts one of the ways early settlers to created income; by trapping and trading animal pelts.
  12. Little Boy, walking his dog with letter for the Royal Oak Post Office.
  13. Mother Nature was chosen by the artists to acknowledge climate change and the importance of preserving nature.
  14. The Artists Laurie Eisenhardt and Marcia Hovland creators of the mosaic stand in appreciation of the Native American “Three Sisters” planting technique (corn, beans and squash).


Mural Key