Altman family’s sidewalk carving catches attention

Photo by Jim Muchlinski Pictured are the names of the members of the Altman family etched into the sidewalk in front of their house in the Morningside Heights Addition.

MARSHALL — Street construction planned by the city of Marshall led to spontaneous artwork that commemorates family history.

Sandra Altman thought of the idea of writing a message on the sidewalk after seeing that construction crews needed to remove the outermost block of sidewalk leading up to their house in the Morningside Heights Addition. She asked a construction crew member if her family owns the block of sidewalk. The crew member replied that her family owns it, that the city only owns the sidewalk that runs parallel to the street as well as the boulevards between the sidewalk and curb.

The construction project was completed in two stages — the first in 2012 and the second in 2014. It encompassed several city blocks in Morningside Heights.

The project involved total reconstruction, which required excavating boulevards and sidewalks in addition to curb and gutter.

“I asked if I could do anything I want with it (the section of sidewalk leading toward the house),” Altman said. “He told me I could within reason. That’s what gave me the idea.”

She went to the backyard shed to get a garden tool that she could use to etch a message into the concrete before it hardened. The finished message includes a large top portion that reads “The Altmans.” Sandra also carved her name, the name of her husband Mark, and their three children Yvette, Jeff and Ryan while including the message “God Bless Us” in the lowermost portion and the notation “Est. 1983.”

The carving continues to draw attention from neighbors, guests and passers-by.

“We’ve had many good comments on it,” Sandra said. “It’s a good way to make visitors and neighbors feel welcome.”

She added that the etching reflects recent chapters in her connections to Marshall. As a 1964 Marshall High School graduate, she became the first live mascot in the state of Minnesota during Marshall’s state basketball championship season in 1963. Both the basketball team and its cheerleading squad became state champions.

Sandra’s parents, Carl and Helen Peterson, lived in a home on the 100 block of East Marshall Street at the edge of downtown Marshall. They identified with Morningside Heights as their neighborhood since it’s situated across from the Redwood River.

Her husband, Mark, spent much of his career as a turf consultant. He now divides his time between consulting work and a job as a truck driver for Viessman Inc. of Marshall.

They decided to locate in Marshall after an unsuccessful three-year attempt to establish a farm in Mark’s home state of Indiana.

“It just wasn’t going to work for us,” Sandra said. “We tried it, but we had growing seasons with no rain and no crops.”

They looked for a place to re-locate in addition to the possibility of staying in Indiana. At first Mark leaned toward Colorado while Sandra’s choice was South Carolina. Mark surprised her by eventually advocating for Marshall.

“He just told me that we’re moving to Marshall,” Sandra said. “When I asked him why, he explained that it’s because his parents were at a point where he knew they’d be well cared for but that mine needed us more.”

Yvette, the oldest of three children who now lives in Buffalo Lake, is currently part of a lighting design company that works with retrofits of light systems and sometimes with new construction projects.

Jeff decided to get started in farming. He works for a corporate farm in Indiana and also operates his own farm. He specializes in raising show quality livestock for 4-H competitors and major adult cattle show participants.

Ryan has spent his career as an emergency medical paramedic based in Brookston, Ind. He prefers the front lines of EMT response to having an office job, and plans to plans to continue in his role as long as arthritis allows him to perform it in a first-rate manner.

Their home has stood the test of time. It has features that make it stand out, including 17-inch thick walls and a stucco exterior.

Ross Anderson and his wife, Southwest Minnesota State University biology professor Pam Sanders, have lived next door to the Altmans since 1999. He said the sidewalk etching has strong support throughout the neighborhood.

He agreed that someday it could be possible for future owners to establish a title chain that’s more visible than legal documents by adding their own histories with an upgrade to the next available sidewalk block leading to the front door.

“I consider it a very good thing,” Anderson said. “Mark and Sandra have been part of the neighborhood for a long time. It tells everyone about their family and about the history of the house.”