A historic gift to San Marino several years in the making made its debut on Valentine’s Day, a mural celebrating the city’s red wooden Pacific Electric Railway trolley brought in the 1900s by none other than Henry Huntington himself.
The idea sprung from a chance meeting between muralist Brian Kenyon and Councilman Dennis Kneier, who along with the Rotary Club wanted to give a something big to the city of San Marino.
“It was good fortune, wonderful timing and pure luck,” Kneier said.
The Centennial Mural, which many locals have started calling “The Red Car Mural,” makes its debut on the same year San Marino celebrates its centennial.
The mural on an 18-by-52-foot wall in the 2200 block of Huntington Drive was unveiled Thursday during an invitation-only luncheon at the fire station across from City Hall.
The red electric trolley cars traveled throughout 1,100 miles of Southern California cities, but San Marino resident Henry Huntington introduced the trolley car system in the 1900s, said Wendell Mortimer, president of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation and advisor to the mural project.
The San Marino line traveled throughout Huntington Drive, Oak Knoll Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard and went all the way to Glendora, Mortimer said.
“San Marino has been a bedroom community for Los Angeles,” Mortimer said. “[The mural] is something that adds to the ambience of the city.”
The mural depicts the Pacific Electric No. 1051 wooden car, which was built the same year San Marino was founded in 1913, Mortimer said.
Though the project was in talks for several years, the mural itself started in mid-January because the host building was undergoing a remodel, Kenyon said.
“San Marino has been very good to me,” Kenyon said. “I wasn’t that familiar with San Marino before I started the mural, but the people have been really nice and reasonable.”
Because the painting features such a historic piece, Kenyon and Mortimer kept in contact and reviewed many photographs to get the essence of the car, Mortimer said.
“[The mural] is not a photograph; it’s not meant to be, but it does have the spirit of the red car,” Mortimer said.
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