Tehachapi Historical Murals

The Tehachapi Main Street Murals Committee has worked together since the year 1999, to raise funds and plan a series of historical murals to showcase the rich history of the Tehachapi Valley. More murals will be produced as funds allow.

The murals are meant to beautify the downtown area, showcase the history of the area for local residents, and serve as a historical guide for visitors to Tehachapi.

Mural In A Day is a way for local artists to learn the techniques and challenges of working on a more monumental scale than that to which most are accustomed. There were 15 Tehachapi artists who worked on the Jake Jacobsen mural, along with Art Mortimer, master artist from Santa Monica.

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The Historic Tehachapi Loop

The Historic Tehachapi Loop mural

Completed in 2002 | Removed 2014

“The Historic Tehachapi Loop,” featuring the world-famous Tehachapi loop circa 1952, was designed by nationally known trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, completed with the help of his associate, Marc Spykerbosch. A trompe l’oeil effect shows damage to the building due to the historic 1952 earthquake. The wall upon which the mural is painted appears to be cracking open from the force of the earthquake.

John Pugh, who has over 175 murals to his credit, actually hiked through the area to get a feel for the layout of the loop. While recognizing the importance of getting the details right in a historical mural of this kind, Pugh’s specialty is to bring elements into the painting to involve the viewer, which he has accomplished through the crack seemingly caused by an earthquake.

Marc Spykerbosch specializes in landscapes and has painted many murals in his native New Zealand. In order to get the colors and details correct, he spent many hours at the Loop, observing the afternoon sun and its effect on the mountains. He chose to depict the Loop in the late summer colors he observed, rather than the usual greens that are only seen for a short time in the spring. In an effort to depict the Loop, he said, “I have taken 50 years growth off the oak trees.”

Street Dance

Street Dance mural

Completed in 2004

“Street Dance” features a street dance held in 1915 when the first electric streetlights were installed in Tehachapi. Mural artist Phil Slagter, used original photos from 1915 to design and paint the mural. Faces of current local residents, and those from the history of Tehachapi were incorporated into the scene. The original site of the street dance and the building shown in the background is the corner of Green and F Street housed the Masonic Lodge and the Post Office in 1915, and you see the type of streetlight actually installed in 1915, as well as the light at the Post Office Town Hall.

For the “Street Dance” mural, faces were chosen for the dancers that portray 5 former mayors, other old-time residents, as well as current residents, one child and a dog. The fire hydrant with a straw hat tossed casually on top is from the original photo. At the time, Slagter lived nearby in Canyon Country, but has since moved to Montana.

People of the Mountains

People of the Mountains mural

Completed in 2004

“People Of The Mountains” by Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, is a depiction of Tehachapi’s Nuwa or Kawaiisu tribe, the first inhabitants of this area. It incorporates a village scene from before contact with the white man. Portraits around the border show members and elders of the tribe, as well as the type of baskets for which the local Indians were known. The series of baskets were woven more recently, and portraits of several members of the local Indian community from the last several decades, Emma Williams, Harold Williams and Andy Greene. The village shows elements from the landscape around Golden Hills, which was the site of an early village. Women are shown weaving baskets and grinding foodstuffs in bedrock mortars. Children are playing games, as the men work at making tools and weaving rabbit pelt blankets.

The background includes the silhouette of a Indian brave atop Black Mountain, local pictographs, a natural lake and the natural vegetation still visible in that area, such as cat tails and rushes. The domed huts pictured were built from locally available brush, and are called kahni, which means house. The name of the nearby State Park, Tomo Kahni, means “winter home” in the Kawaiisu language.


T-hacha-P mural

Completed in 2005

The “T-hacha-P” mural was designed by Art Mortimer and painted by Tehachapi artists. The mural features a scene of the fields of the Tehachapi area, with Tehachapi Peak in the background. The “T-hacha-P” logo was taken from an early fruit crate label. The steam-powered combine shown is followed by a horse drawn water wagon. The portrait is of Jake Jacobsen, who along with his brother Rolf, built the seed-packing shed that now houses the Apple Shed Restaurant. He is also remembered as a former mayor and for many other civic achievements in Tehachapi.

A funnel can still be seen on the roof of the building, through which seeds were directed into a hopper, still evident inside the building. Throughout the years, Tehachapi has seen the production of seeds for potatoes, sugar beets, alfalfa, red clover, ankora orchard grass, tall fescue and mustard seed, among other crops. The actual painting was done by local Tehachapi artists, after Mortimer sketched in the basic shapes of the mural. The painting was completed in one day.

Red Front Blacksmith Shop

Red Front Blacksmith Shop mural

Completed in 2006

Tehachapi artist Lyn Bennett painted the blacksmith mural, assisted by Brenda Anderline. Over 100 years ago, the Red Front Blacksmith Shop stood directly across Curry Street from the mural. The eight men who stood in front to have their photo taken each hold a tool or project as they awkwardly posed for the camera. You see a sledgehammer, a rifle barrel, a saw, a square, a bucket, hammer and tongs, a horseshoe and other items used in the everyday world of blacksmithing. These men also worked on their family ranches.

The dog shown with the men seems to be looking along Curry Street. Perhaps there are cattle or sheep coming down the street, as this was the street that led to the stockyards near the railroad depot. Interior views of a blacksmith shop and local cowboys are also shown. For authenticity, John Hammond gave a demonstration in his Tehachapi blacksmith shop at the Linda Vista Ranch, shown on the right. Cattle brands used at several local ranches are shown with the names of the ranchers. They show the artistic range incorporated by local blacksmiths into this important implement of Tehachapi’s cattle ranching past. They represent some of the larger ranches that dotted the Tehachapi area.

The Legend of Avelino Martinez

The Legend of Avelino Martinez mural

Completed in 2007

Painted by artist Patti Doolittle, Martinez came from Mexico with a group of drovers as a thirteen year old, searching for his father. Of Mexican, Indian and Chinese descent he stood four feet-four inches tall.

He worked as a horse groomer for legendary outlaw Joaquin Murrieta. From 1853, after Murrieta and his gangs were captured, Martinez worked at Rancho El Tejon until 1920. He then worked at Cummings Ranch in Tehachapi until his death in 1936 at a reported age of 112 (some accounts say 115), the last of the Murrieta group.

Avelino would often ride his horse into town, to visit friends. Once in town, Avelino would take off his pistols and give them to Vickie Leiva. and cross over to F Street to tie his horse. After visiting a local bar and visiting with his friends, he would sit on the street and tell stories to passersby. When ready to leave, he would collect his horse and go back for his pistols. Vickie would take out a stool so he could climb onto his horse for the journey home, as he was still four feet-four inches tall as an adult!

Upon Avelino’s death, Buddy Cummings gave two men a bottle of wine to dig Avelino’s grave at the cemetery. Somewhat confused, possibly from the wine, they dug the grave in a north-south direction rather than east-west, as all the other graves lie. Legend has it that the ground was frozen solid and re-digging would have been too difficult.

Air Mail

Air Mail mural

Completed in 2007

The Air Mail mural was designed and painted by Mark Pestana, noted test pilot and Tehachapi artist. On May 15, 1938, The U.S. Postal Service issued a new Air Mail stamp as part of a national celebration for the 20th anniversary of the first U.S. Air Mail. Tehachapi marked the occasion with its inaugural Air Mail flight to Bakersfield. Harry Beauford, Jr., a Tehachapi resident and pilot, is shown standing next to his plane at Tehachapi Airport, then known as Kern County Airport #4. The side of the plane is painted to commemorate the first Air Mail flight from Tehachapi to Bakersfield. Tehachapi Peak is in the background.

Many cities joined in the celebration with special events and by issuing specially designed envelopes with the new stamp. This mural depicts the artist’s conception of one of those envelopes, postmarked at Tehachapi and addressed to the local pilot. The airplane used for this flight is a Porterfield CP-40 Zephyr. This particular airplane’s civil registry number was NC18088, as seen, on the plane’s tail, along with the name, Zephyr. The mural also commemorates the building’s site as the location of Tehachapi’s U. S. Post Office, built after the 1952 earthquake. An original architectural feature of the wall is the inset relief of an eagle, a sculptural element that is incorporated into the envelope.


Monolith mural

Completed in 2008

The Monolith mural was designed and painted to honor the importance the cement plant and the township of Monolith played in Tehachapi’s history. It was created based on vintage photographs by artist Art Mortimer. The mural celebrates the 100th anniversary of the cement plant, where production began in 1908 by the City of Los Angeles to produce cement for the Los Angeles Aqueduct. It portrays Monolith’s history and the thousands of workers who toiled at the cement plant during those 100 years. Due to its long history and importance to the economy and the people of Tehachapi, many still refer to the plant today as Monolith.

For many decades the plant was the largest employer in the Tehachapi Valley. Some Tehachapi residents still work at the plant, with many others retired, and some families having second or third generation workers still employed by Lehigh SouthWest Cement, the current operator. The mural honors the thousands of workers who toiled at the cement plant during its first 100 years. In addition to the workers, many families lived in the township, attended the school and shopped at the Monolith Store. It was a true “company town” and many residents recall the sense of community experienced there. Worker immigrants from Europe and Mexico joined those of Slavic, Indian and other backgrounds in the Tehachapi area. A cartouche on the left side of the mural shows some of the important dates in the 100-year history of the plant and township.

Mural Photos © by Robert Hardy Photography

Murals map