Custom mural brightens coastal byway


One of the most scenic routes in the country is Florida’s A1A. Driving south of Mickler Road toward Vilano Beach, travelers can see grand homes to the east with intermittent views of the Atlantic, and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve to the west, with peeks of Guana Lake. Osprey, brown pelicans and an occasional bald eagle soar overhead; tortoise and rabbits share the coastal byway’s grassy shoulders.

In the 2500 block, there’s something new to view.

About a year ago, Lee and Kathleen Rose decided to move from Texas to Florida and retire. Unsure if beach life was really for them, the couple rented a beach house for five months and began to look for a home to buy. When a single-story, beachfront home built in the late 40s came on the market, they decided to take a look.

“As soon as I walked into this beach house I said, ‘this is it,’” Kathleen Rose said.

She said some people might buy the property and raze the single-story home to put up a much larger, multi-story structure. But she noted that it’s been through many storms over the years, probably because of its low profile and cement block construction.

A wall separating the house from the often busy A1A affords privacy and reduces road noise. But it was just a plain, white wall. Kathleen Rose thought a mural would be a nice touch. The crew installing palm trees recommended artist Anthony Rooney.

Rooney studied art at the University of North Florida, where professors encouraged him to “work big.” He got the opportunity to work big under Firehouse Subs mural artist, Joe Puskas. Every Firehouse Subs store has a custom mural designed by Puskas and executed by a team of artists.

“Under Joe, I’m learning a lot – sometimes working 60 hours a week,” Rooney said. “They opened about 160 stores in 2015-2016.”

It can take 80 to 100 hours to complete a mural.

When he’s not working for Firehouse, Rooney takes on other projects. Some of his work nearby includes a pirate above the bar at Scarlett O’Hara’s and a woman doing a backbend over the taps at Dos Gatos in St. Augustine. He also has works in Surfer the Bar, Coop 303 and Hoptinger in Jacksonville Beach. He enjoys the “side work” outside the steady Firehouse gig.

“I get to draw my own ideas out, be creative and work on my own,” he said.

Firehouse is not opening as many stores this year, but freelance opportunities have picked up for Rooney.

“God’s really working things out for me,” he said.

When he met with Kathleen Rose, she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted: an underwater scene with reef fish, dolphins and turtles that transitioned to the shore with dogs chillin’ in beach chairs. Two of her dogs are Pintlar, named after Pintlar Wilderness in Montana, and Rocker, a yellow lab. She and Lee always wear Oakley shades, so Rooney added the logo to sunglasses worn by the dogs in the mural. Later she requested a mermaid.

Kathleen Rose said, “I told him to put a mermaid at the south end [of the wall] with long, blonde hair holding her hand out with a seahorse above her palm.”

She said lots of people were honking when the initial colors went on. Now that there’s detail, people actually stop.

“Just look at the sea turtle. The detail is amazing,” Kathleen Rose said.

Rooney finished the mural in about 80 hours over a span of three months, mostly because of weather delays. Kathleen Rose is coming up with a concept for Rooney to paint fencing on the Oceanside of the property, since the salt air limits landscape options.

“I want some color back there,” she said, certain Rooney can deliver.



To contact Anthony Rooney, call 904-982-5644 or email


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