Lauren Smith frequently drives by a mural in Orchards depicting local life in the early 1900s. The 70-foot-long mural has a prune-picking family standing in front of an orchard, Mount St. Helens (with its top), the Orchards Feed Mill and the Orchards-Sifton streetcar.
It’s a lot packed into a single scene — one that confused Smith.
Curious about the history of the mural and clock courtyard at Northeast Covington Road and Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard, she recently submitted a question to The Columbian’s Clark Asks feature.
“I’ve always been a very inquisitive person, especially when it comes to the local community. I love to learn about the history behind specific artwork or areas in Clark County,” she said in an email. “One of the things that always caught my attention was the fact that the mural depicts the Orchards Feed Mill as well as a train station — yet as far as I know, there is not a railroad track near the current Orchards Feed Mill. Overall, I’m really curious to find out what person or group was responsible for the mural’s creation, and the story behind what the mural is depicting.”
The main artist behind the mural, Guy Drennan, explained that the scene is a composite of several historic photos. In 2002, tasked with painting a mural that shows how Orchards got its name, he went to the Clark County Historical Society with Linda Peterson and was directed to a filing cabinet full of photos. The resulting mural mushes together a few images they photocopied.
“Fourth Plain was lined with prune drying operations,” Drennan said.
Clark County once claimed to be the prune capital of the U.S. and had dozens of prune dryers and orchards, and even a couple of canneries. Yes, prunes are the main reason Orchards is called Orchards.