Posted by Steve Lettau on Aug 31, 2022

By Charley Hanney - Conley Publishing

MEQUON — It’s hard to miss the 17-foot-tall Mequon Town Center Gateway structure located at the northeast corner of Cedarburg and Mequon roads that serves as an entrance to the Mequon and Thiensville communities as well as the Town Center District.

But what is less visible are the multiple storyboards describing the rich history of the local community.

It was in 2004 when Thiensville-Mequon Rotary Club member and Mequon-Thiensville Historical Society President Bob Blazich had the idea to have informational signs mounted on bronze, tree-like pedestals for the Rotary Riverwalk Project along the Milwaukee River. But due to the high cost of the pieces, his ideas never went anywhere.

Until there were talks of creating a Town Center gateway.

“Several people approached me and said that they hoped to have some type of historical signage included in their plan. I, of course, was all in on that idea,” Blazich said. 

He proposed five storyboards focusing on Indigenous People, Mequon, Thiensville, The River and the Town Center. Former Mequon Mayor and current T-M Rotary Club member Connie Pukaite helped oversee the project with Blazich and helped him considerably with the wording of the storyboards.

According to Blazich, members from the Mequon-Thiensville Town Center Gateway Committee, who helped bring the design concept together, suggested to have the storyboards mounted on simple angled metal pieces similar to what one would find in a national park, but he hoped to still include tree-like pedestals.

“I met with Sam Laturi, a Thiensville blacksmith whose shop is actually about 500 feet from my condo. I showed him a rough picture of the angled pieces, and he said he could crank them out in about a day,” Blazich said. “I then showed him a very rough picture of my idea for the tree-like pedestals. He virtually lit up when he saw the very rough drawing, and we were off to the races.”

Laturi spent roughly six weeks constructing the storyboards. “As I was constructing the storyboards, I was taking pictures, and every Friday, I was sending a narrative over to Bob and Connie and at the end, we consolidated the emails to put together one long story,” he said.

Blazich and his wife, Jan, offered to pay for the signs and ironwork while their son, Bill, who runs a metal finishing business in Kenosha, offered to do the metal finishing.

“In the end, we decided to have only four pedestals with Mequon and Thiensville appropriately sharing one of the bases,” Blazich added.

Positioned along the crushed granite path that leads down to the river, the storyboards are a reminder of what came before.

“It’s an easy way for people to learn about the place they call home in a nice natural setting,” Mayor Andrew Nerbun said. “It’s a history lesson in a digestible format.”

Other than enjoying a relaxing walk along the Milwaukee River, Blazich’s main hope is that “people will take the short riverfront walk, develop a better understanding of our local history and learn about the work of the Mequon Thiensville Historical Society.”