In 1990, local artist John Bell,
Jr. designed this mural for the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, and directed
a team of his art students in painting it. The mural depicts the
50-year heyday of street railway transportation in Fort
Smith, Arkansas, beginning with the mule-drawn streetcars of 1883, on
the far left. The second car shown is an open car, in which the
motorman stood outside. After that came the semi-convertible trolley
and, on the far right, the Birney "safety car," which was used until
Fort Smith Light & Traction Co. closed in 1933. Four historical
buildings are shown in the background, including Fort Smith's W.H.H.
Clayton house (center left) and the Fort Smith Art Center (center
In 1991, a tornado tore through downtown Fort Smith, knocking down the
concrete-block wall of the building on which the mural was painted.
Mr. Bell found a unique solution for reassembling the wall. He numbered
each block so that his students could place it in the correct spot.
then touched up the paint, and added a special momento: a
small funnel cloud
in the top right corner, along with the date '91. In April of 1996,
another twister came
though "Tornado Alley," destroying many of Garrison Avenue's historic
buildings and (minor in comparison) blowing one set of the museum's
off their hinges. A '96 was added to the mural to commemorate that
Currently, the mural is beginning to deteriorate and there is a large
crack in the
wall of the building. Fortunately, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum has
just purchased this building (Sept. 2004) and the property on which it
sits. Plans include renovation of the outer walls.
See artwork by John Bell, Jr.:
Kujawa's home page