Mural Painter Learns History Of Sioux City During Process

(SIOUX CITY, IA) Most people learn the history of places, things, or events through books and word of mouth. But what about a painting? That's exactly how one local man learned about the Sioux City of the late 1800's through the process of re-creating a mural.

Every day Paul Chelstad spends hours upon hours fine tuning the details of a mural he started more than a year ago. A map of Sioux City from 1888.

"I've been calling myself the staff painter, because I've been here so long," said Chelstad.

Even though things may be moving slowly, Paul's treasure trove of knowledge is growing quite rapidly.

"This is all the train lines in the area and everything went through Sioux City but evidentially there wasn't one that went through Sioux City toward Lincoln or whatever, so they'd load the trains onto the ferries and bring them across the river and unload them. What a process," he said.

But that's not all Paul learned. He says the river used to be about 500 feet wider, most of the buildings in the downtown area back then burned down in a fire and the population of Sioux city grew 400% in just 5 years -- from around 1885 to 1890.

That's only skimming the surface.

"I didn't know any of that before I started this," he said.

Paul says it all started when Dave Bernstein, owner of State Steel asked him to do a mural in one of the conference rooms. Paul found an old map from the 1800's in an antique shop and thought it was perfect.

"Oh I loved it. Cause the house I live in, it's on the top end of this and I was really excited about that," said Chelstad.

Of course all good and exciting things must come to an end. He plans on finishing the mural before the New Year but the history of Sioux City is something he'll never forget.

"I thought I was just going to paint a picture of Sioux City in 1888 and you know I love the map but to do the map is like a whole different experience. And it goes so slow, you can't help but get involved with thinking about the areas," he said.