Mantel depicts Dowagiac landmarksPublished 4:53pm Thursday, February 21, 2013
It took Wyoming transplant Don Wilcox about 300 hours of relief carving to create the Dowagiac landmark mantel on exhibit in the lobby of Front Street Crossing.
Wilcox, of Dowagiac, is president of the Fruitbelt Carvers of Cassopolis, who set up shop in the “carvers’ cave” in the Council on Aging café during Ice Time Festival.
When he retired from the construction business, the Wilcoxes moved to Michigan, his wife’s home state.
He devoted a lot of time researching the landmarks, which perhaps is best appreciated by the original Beckwith Theatre, complete with medallions destined for Southwestern Michigan College and the variety of signs recreated across second-floor windows with wood burning.
Wilcox’s medium was one piece of basswood he got at an Amish mill in Middlebury, Ind.
Wilcox thumbed through a Dowagiac book, looking for the Grand Old City’s oldest edifices, including the original Carnegie library, hidden for decades behind its façade; Round Oak Stove, now Ameriwood; and the Pray building at Park Place and Front Street where well windmills were made in the 19th century.
Wilcox said he and Dowagiac Area History Museum Director Steve Arseneau have discussed moving the mantel there as part of an exhibit with other carvings in its collection.
With his carpentry background, Wilcox has done woodworking all his life. He got into carving about four years ago when his wife gave him the tools as a gift.