RICHMOND, Ind. – Gennett Records brought some of the world’s greatest musical talent to the city during its heyday of the 1920s.
These artists included Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Big Bill Broonzy, and Charley Patton.
“A lot of artists that I love, these guys have influenced,” said Tom Broyles, owner of Firehouse BBQ & Blues in the Depot District. “They changed the popular music that people all over the world enjoy, and I think it’s so cool, a great story that needs to be told.
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But there is also more to share about Richmond’s heritage, and Broyles has developed a vision to make it happen: the Midwest Music and Heritage Trail. Sculptures and corresponding informational markers honoring Armstrong, Carmichael, Broonzy, Patton and the Murray Theater were on display in the Depot building on Thursday.
They will soon be installed along North Seventh Street, and Broyles expects the project to evolve into 50 sculptures placed along The Loop Trail and Main Street at the Starr-Gennett Foundation Walk of Fame. Already five other stories – Gene Autry, Georgia Tim Dorsey, Denny Purcell, native of the region, Baby Huey and Lawrence Welk – will be commemorated again this year.
“What we’re trying to do is we want to get people to discover Richmond, to discover the heritage of the city, to find out about the cool things that have happened here, to walk around looking at these buildings, and can -being someone say, “Hey, look around this beautiful old building. It’s a little run down, but I can see something, ”Broyles said. “We want people to see these old houses and fall in love with them. “
When Broyles experienced the Freedom Trail of Boston’s Historic Sites, he realized that Richmond also had sites that reflected its interesting heritage, architecture, and music.
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“When the City of Richmond started this Loop project, I thought, well, that’s perfect because it’s going to be this nice new walking trail,” said Broyles. “We can work with them to put them in along the way, and if people come, they can take a tour and they can learn a lot of interesting things.”
Wayne Bank has signed up to sponsor the entire project, and each sculpture has a sponsor. For the first five sculptures, these sponsors are Firehouse BBQ & Blues, Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau, Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Main Street Richmond. Deer Ridge Camping Resort, Better Homes and Gardens First Realty Group and the Purcell Family are the sponsors of the upcoming sculptures.
Mike Gaddis, president and CEO of Wayne Bank, said Broyles approached the bank with his vision. He said businesses and the community have a responsibility to help develop good ideas.
“This idea that he has, I think, is just spectacular,” Gaddis said. “I think it’s a really great opportunity to bring people, more than cyclists, to the track. I’m excited about it.
“We just felt like it was something that as a community bank we could source and really support this great idea.”
Broyles thanked the trail committee members for their work, saying that in order to get things done you need to “put good people around”. Committee members are Maria Haber, owner of Paint the Towne; Karen Shank-Chapman, Executive Director of the Wayne County Museum; Beth Newton, General Manager of Main Street Richmond; Tracie Robinson of Better Homes and Gardens First Realty Group; and Ed DeLaPaz of CityLife Studio.
Haber said she was involved in creating a positive image for The Loop and in showcasing the city’s heritage that might otherwise go unrecognized. She also said the trail can be linked with school outings and will appeal to all ages.
“I’m very excited about it, very excited to start this first step and see it continue, and I think that will generate excitement as we put them in place,” said Haber, who noted that the Honored musicians began their visits to Richmond by getting trains directly into the building where the sculptures were on display Thursday.
The guitar sculptures represent Patton and Broonzy, with a trumpet for Armstrong, a keyboard for Carmichael and the comedy and tragedy masks for the Murray Theater. Double Tap Engineering in Anderson created the metal sculptures on brackets that will be bolted to the concrete.
Broyles said that when moving the sculptures from Paint the Towne to the Depot on Thursday, he spoke to visitors from New York who were walking around to take photos. He said it happens frequently with visitors seeing great things in the city, sometimes more than city residents see.
“We just need to mine this gold that we have here,” Broyles said.