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Painting the 150-foot century-old smokestack that rises from the Grocery Outlet parking lot is a big job, but Una Wirkebau-Hartt of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce thinks it can be done by fair time in late August-and she has a plan in place to do it.
The first step was getting the permission of the owner of the land and structure, Fred Wolfstone. He was amenable, so the next step was establishing a budget.
To do that, Wirkebau-Hartt approached the artist who painted the smokestack in Mt. Vernon with its iconic tulip.
“Jose Cordona has painted the Mt. Vernon stack three times now,” said Wirkebau-Hartt. “He is very good at taking an image he did not design from a 12-inch paper and painting it. He’s onboard, and very excited.”
With the cost of equipment, including a lift, a design and the art, the whole thing can be done for about $40,000, she said.
Businesses including Ben Franklin are already working to raise the money.
In the meantime, Wirkebau-Hartt then moved on to the next step; an actual design. To do that, she consulted the Monroe Historical Society to learn the backstory of the soaring structure.
The chimney was once the exhaust for the steam from the process of evaporating milk, and it was built for the Carnation company, which became established in Monroe in in 1908.
The Carnation company is now owned by Nestle, so to get some ideas, Wirkebau-Hartt contact that company. They were happy to help.
“We have an original label from a Carnation can in1908,” said Wirkebau-Hartt.
Three other options were prepared.
One rule about artworks on large monuments is they have to be relatively simple, lest they become a distraction to drivers and thus a traffic hazard.
Given the dairy history of the sign, one person proposed that the sign be painted with a simple cowhide pattern.
A variation on that theme was to add around the top several images of cows.
“In the 1920s and ‘30s it was popular to have portraits made that were very stoic, so the pictures would be that kind of look, in different frames, but instead of people’s portraits, it would be cows,” said Wirkebau-Hartt. “Dairies are such a huge part of our area.”
A fourth idea is reflects the natural beauty of the region.
“It’s an elongated view of the sky, Mt. Index, pine trees, and the Skykomish River in front,” she said.
All the designs were taken form concept to actual image by Ester McClatchy, the person who created the tulip image for Mt. Vernon.
Not pictured in the designs, but which would be included on the actual smokestack, is historical information.
“At eye level, the smokestack will be wrapped with historical data, including the significance of the site and what happened there, and that’s another price,” said Wirkebau-Hartt.
That part would be too intricate to be painted, but Monroe’s digital printing company Image Mill will wrap it.
A last piece could be placards around the base, perhaps including the names of people who once worked at the site.
“We contacted an archivist for the Carnation Company who lives in Duvall, and he has the names of everyone who worked there from 1908 to 1920,” said Wirkebau-Hartt.
The Monroe Chamber of Commerce will soon offer the opportunity to vote on the images at www.choosemonroe.com. Readers can also vote on the survey that appears with this story. And look for a table coming soon to Ben Franklin at which people may place their votes.