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'Lutz Special' on track

A brick mural for the library is on schedule and promises to be a creative reminder of the community's train depot origins.

Published November 6, 2005

LUTZ - A sculptor of bricks will soon bring an early 20th century locomotive steaming forth from the front of the Lutz Branch Library.

When Charles Sharrod Partin is finished, he will have given Lutz the second symbol of its origin as Lutz Junction, a rail depot. The other, a few hundred feet away in Bullard Park, is a replica of the 1912 depot building.

In a few months, when patrons walk up to the library, they'll be greeted on the south side of the entrance by a conductor and coal man, with a locomotive pointing toward them.

"Most brick murals are somewhat flat. On this, I wanted to make it look like a free-standing piece, so I exaggerated the perspective by angling it," said Partin. "It'll look like it's coming right at you."

Officially, Partin's work is the final step in a library expansion that workers completed 17 months ago. One percent of the renovation costs remained set aside for public art.

A committee chose Partin from a handful of artists who bid on the project. Partin fashioned his idea for the brick locomotive from photographs in the local history book Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers by Lutz natives Elizabeth Riegler MacManus and Susan A. MacManus, mother and daughter.

After a year of looking at different mediums and themes, the advisory committee settled on the train proposal not only for its historical significance, but also for the unusual material.

"His medium really separated him from the other artists," said Jan Stein of the Hillsborough County Public Art Committee. "It's artistic, architectural, historical. It's perfect for Lutz."

The Lutz library project will cost approximately $25,000, which includes a clay maquette, a small, three-dimensional version of the locomotive that will hang inside the library.

The outdoor piece will be the first brick mural public art in Hillsborough County, said Stein.

Lutz began as a railroad town, thanks to brothers from West Virginia.

When the Tampa Northern Railroad was extended from Brooksville to Tampa in 1907, one of the brothers, William P. Lutz, became an engineer on the line. He established a series of wood piles to fuel his train's engine, including one near today's intersection of U.S. 41 and Lutz-Lake Fern Road. Lutz named that spot Lutz Station.

Lutz's brother Charles, meanwhile, was a sawmill owner in Odessa. The new railroad offered an easier way to ship logs to Tampa. So Charles Lutz built a rail line from Odessa to Lutz Station in 1909. The brothers renamed the spot Lutz Junction.

Developers launched a thriving community a year later, calling it North Tampa. But in 1913, federal postal officials vetoed that name. In exchange for a post office, the settlers accepted "Lutz."

Partin will bring a 13-foot by 7-foot brick locomotive to Lutz Junction by carving it from a wall of wet brick in Endicott, Neb. Partin chose the studio in Nebraska for both the work space and the type of brick available there.

"The clay here has a lot of iron in it," said Partin. "You get colors you don't get with other types of brick."

He began carving the piece about three weeks ago. When he finishes the detailing, he'll number the individual bricks and fire them in a kiln. The bricks will then be transported to Lutz and put back together.

Partin was an architect in New Port Richey for more than 20 years.

"I love designing buildings, but it was too much responsibility, so I turned to my second love, which is sculpture," said Partin, who has a degree in architecture from the University of Florida and a degree in sculpture from Florida State University.

He's been pursuing art for the past eight years. His works include a brick mural at UF, and another public art piece in New Port Richey.

Stein, from the art committee, said Partin's work is on schedule and should be completed by April.

"I think it's going to be very exciting for visitors of the library," said librarian Janet Spearel. "It's a reflection of the historical value of this community."

[Last modified November 5, 2005, 09:59:05]

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