VICKSBURG FACTS: Riverfront Mural Project captures community’s historical moments

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 2, 2023

Do you know about the history of Vicksburg Riverfront Murals?

The Vicksburg Riverfront Murals were inspired by the Paducah, Ky. floodwall. According to the Riverfront Murals website, a group of Vicksburg women visited the Paducah Floodwall in the early 2000s and wanted to showcase Vicksburg in an artistic and historical way. They also wanted to promote tourism in the community with the murals. 

The Vicksburg-Warren County area supported the idea and the Riverfront Mural committee started getting endorsements from the City of Vicksburg and major economic and historical development organizations. The Riverfront mural committee also commissioned the same artist from the Paducah floodwall, Robert Dafford.

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Dafford is a Louisiana native that is known for his ability to create photographic realism for various themes. He studied art at the University of Southwestern Louisiana but had to stop due to the Vietnam War. While he served in the war, Dafford was a naval illustrator and draftsman aboard the U.S.S. Independence in the Mediterranean. After the war, Dafford began to paint over 300 murals across the United States, Canada, France, Belgium and England according to the Robert Dafford Murals website. 

The goal of the mural project was to capture historical moments that have left an impact on Vicksburg. The first mural was unveiled on April 2002, the Vicksburg Waterfront mural. For the last 20 years, the project has showcased the city’s timeline such as President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous bear hunt, the Joseph Biedenharn Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Carr Central, Rosa A. Temple High School and many more. 

An example of one of Vicksburg’s most influential times is the Koestler Bakery mural unveiled in 2008. Koestler’s Bakery was opened by Leo C. Koestler on Washington and Belmont streets in 1908. The bakery’s first ovens were coal-fired and their “Mello-Toasted Bread” was delivered to houses by a horse-drawn dray. The bakery became the first in Mississippi to deliver its baked goods in a Studebaker in 1918. After Koeslter’s death, his family continued the bakery business.

In 1949, the Koestler bakery moved its business to a new building on Clay and Hossley streets, which is when the family began the annual tradition of Christmas Tree Lane according to the Vicksburg Post’s Dec. 14, 2008, edition. The Koestler’s Bakery mural features the bakery with its Christmas Tree Lane. During the unveiling, an estimated 200 people came together to reminisce about the bakery’s Christmas tradition.

The last mural for the Riverfront Mural project was a depiction of Jitney Jungle, a supermarket opened in 1933 that contained a grocery store, cafeteria, dry cleaners, pharmacy, bakery, toy store and lunch counter. The store was opened by Pete Sr. and Bessie Nosser.

The committee was able to finish the project with 32 different historical moments that helped shaped the city of Vicksburg.