Huntington Woods-based artist Daniel Cascardo stands beside his newly unveiled mural at Eagle Plaza Sept. 25. Local families helped color in the mural’s lines at the inaugural Family Pride event at the Royal Oak Farmers Market June 12.

Huntington Woods-based artist Daniel Cascardo stands beside his newly unveiled mural at Eagle Plaza Sept. 25. Local families helped color in the mural’s lines at the inaugural Family Pride event at the Royal Oak Farmers Market June 12.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Royal Oak unveils community mural during history event

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 1, 2019

 Actor Jonathan Davidson portrays territorial Gov. Lewis Cass during an  educational program for schoolchildren at Eagle Plaza in Royal Oak Sept. 25.

Actor Jonathan Davidson portrays territorial Gov. Lewis Cass during an educational program for schoolchildren at Eagle Plaza in Royal Oak Sept. 25.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROYAL OAK — On Sept. 25, Mayor Michael Fournier and Huntington Woods-based artist Daniel Cascardo unveiled a mural at Eagle Plaza to celebrate the 200th anniversary of territorial Gov. Lewis Cass naming the city of Royal Oak.

Actor Jonathan Davidson, of Water Works Theatre Company, brought the history lesson to life for students from St. Mary Catholic School and St. Paul Lutheran School by dressing in costume and portraying Cass.

In an interactive skit, Davidson revealed that Cass County, Cass Lake and the Cass Corridor were all named after Cass, who named both Oakland County and Royal Oak.

“It was 1814, and President James Madison asked me to tame wild Michigan. Back then, it was a wilderness teeming with swamps,” he said. “I wanted to prove the bureaucrats wrong, so I set out about 1818 or 1819. …. We were stopped almost immediately by mud that came up to our horses’ knees, and we couldn’t go anywhere. It was like I-75 during rush hour.”

Davidson continued to explain that the expedition pushed onward and eventually came to a vast opening with a mighty oak tree, where he laid down and took a nap. The tree, with its protective boughs, reminded him of the oak tree where the king of England, Charles II, hid when he was young.

“Prince Charles was in a mighty battle and was forced to run from his enemies and hide himself in an oak tree,” Davidson said. “I thought, well, this is a royal oak tree, so the name stuck.”

Approximately 100 years later, George Dondero, who served as the first school board president and first mayor  of Royal Oak, brought back acorns descended from the same oak tree in England, which were planted at the Detroit Zoo and later transplanted to Memorial Park, where they reside today.

In another nod to the city, officials unveiled a reproduction of a mural created by the community during Royal Oak’s inaugural Family Pride event at the Royal Oak Farmers Market June 12.

The city commissioned Cascardo to create a black line drawing of a stylized oak tree featuring a wide array of Royal Oak-centric motifs — including the Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak Schools sports teams, Beaumont Hospital, Charles II, pizza, a bicyclist and more — and invited families to color it in.

“I took it back to my studio and cleaned it up,” Cascardo said.

Unless people used two of the same colors next to each other, Cascardo said, he kept the public’s color choices the same. The mural features a multicolored Star Dream Fountain. Cascardo said the branches and trunk are composed of people, because people make up Royal Oak.

Eagle Plaza is located in the space between the Center Street parking garage, the railroad tracks and the businesses along Fourth Street.

For more information, visit www.romi.gov or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

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