The Main Street and Broadway mural at Castle Church emerges from the town center

NORWICH — Normally, a flat white wall greets drivers on Broadway toward Main Street.

No more. Passers-by last week probably saw the start of a fresco.

“I hope it will have a lasting impact for generations to come,” said muralist Ben Keller. “I hope it brings people hope, joy.”

The piece of land behind castle church, the former Norwich Savings Society, built in 1895, will become Jubilee Park, a public space cared for by the church. Castle Church pastor Adam Bowles wants to turn the wall and adjacent land into “something special for the town”.

The park is accompanied by a mural depicting two important black figures in Norwich history – James Lindsey Smith and Sarah Harris Fayerweather.

Bowles said the park itself will take time, with only plans to be completed next year. The mural, which began this month, is expected to be completed in June, with a dedication tentatively scheduled for June 12.

Bowles said he was inspired to create Jubilee Park from a disused plot where a building once stood when the non-denominational Christian church first moved into its current home in 2019.

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“Right away I knew this would be a great way to bless the community by turning it into something beautiful,” Bowles said.

“Gathering, connecting and creating social ties”

Final ideas for Jubilee Park are pending, he said. He wants to organize community meetings between the church, the Yale Urban Design Workshop and the community about what the park should look like and be used for, as long as it is a place “to gather, to connection and creation of social ties.

Bowles was also inspired by the revitalizing impact of Wynwood Walls, a museum of street art and outdoor murals, in Miami.

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The roughly 50-square-foot mural costs $40,000 and the Yale job costs $35,000, according to on the Castle Church website. The church is still raising funds for the project through a GoFundMe page titled “Norwich Jubilee Project – Mural and Park“, who had $1,100 on Monday.

An interpretation of the 50 by 50 foot mural painted by mural artist Ben Keller.

Who were Sarah Harris Fayerweather and James Lindsey Smith?

Harris Fayerweather, born in Norwich, was the first black pupil of Prudence Crandall’s school in Canterbury in 1832, which was then closed in 1834 due to violence towards the school and the student population of young black women. She remained involved in abolition and civil rights causes throughout her life.

Smith escaped slavery in Virginia and became free in Philadelphia. He eventually moved to Norwich, where he was a minister and businessman. He also wrote an autobiography in 1881.

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“They embodied the spirit of resilience,” Bowles said.

Smith is also depicted on a Market Street Garage mural, completed earlier this year. It is part of a series of murals in several cities that features historic civil rights leaders, including local ones.

An experienced muralist takes the job

Ben Keller, an experienced muralist with pieces on display as close to Willimantic and all around the east coast, became involved when approached by mutual church friends, as Keller attends church in Farmington .

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Keller prefers to work from high resolution photographs, so he needed to recreate the portraits of Smith and Harris Fayerweather. Harris Fayerweather was modeled by Olivia Langford, a descendant of Harris Fayerweather, wearing 19th century clothing borrowed from the Cromwell Historical Society.

Mural artist Ben Keller paints a rose as part of a 50ft by 50ft mural at future Jubilee Park, a public space at Castle Church in Norwich city centre.  The mural will feature two important black figures in Norwich history, James Lindsey Smith and Sarah Harris Fayerweather.

casSmith was modeled by Castle Church cult leader Robenson Charlotin. Charlotin said he felt a connection to Smith. Charlotin was born in Haiti, but left for Mexico and eventually came to Norwich after the 2010 earthquakes. Charlotin noted that Smith was also a man of faith.

“He has a strong faith, which is the same kind of faith that has guided me throughout my life,” Charlotin said.

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The final mural will feature Smith and Harris Fayerweather, but will also include designs like roses and a doorway in the middle.

Mural artist Ben Keller uses part of the final render on his phone to paint a rose for his mural at Castle Church in Norwich city center on Friday.

Bowles said the gate is linked to the Castle Church, as the gate depicted is modeled on that of a castle in Germany, but it also represents a shift in thinking towards Norwich city centre.

So far it looks like the people of Norwich are loving the project, including a woman in a lorry on Thursday asking Keller to paint her house, as he worked on the mural.

“Do you want to paint my house next?” she asked. “I have a whole brick wall and a whole side of the house ready.”

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As things progress, Keller wants her mural to elevate the community.

“At the end of the day, it’s all just love,” Keller said.

For Bowles, he hopes the progress made by this park will have an impact on the rest of downtown.

“Doing the work here will drive improvements throughout downtown,” Bowles said.

David H. Henry