A Hidden Gem: The Butterfly House

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Mary Dallao Tweet Us @WalkArlington@WalkArlington August 10, 2021

Mary Dallao is the Program Manager for WalkArlington. She loves being outdoors and can often be found walking or running on one of Arlington’s beautiful trails.

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Meet one of the homeowners and the artist of “The Butterfly House”, located near Lubber Run Park.

When Eric Lotke and Amy Mortimer decided their Arlington Colonial needed a paint job, they contacted painter Langston Urrutia. They heard he did good work at a reasonable price, so they hired him. Although at first the job progressed in a fairly straightforward manner, it wasn’t long before Eric and Amy started wondering if it could be something more.

“We thought it might be fun to have a mural on the house,” Eric says simply, “and we thought maybe Langston could do that.” Soon, the three were discussing ideas, texting and calling back and forth with possibilities. All of them loved the outdoors, so a nature theme seemed likely. A sunflower? A monarch butterfly? Maybe wildflowers? As they sifted through newspapers, magazines, and websites, certain images kept popping up over and over. Langston thought it must be a sign.

They decided the key elements would be a monarch butterfly, a sunflower, milkweed, a bee, a caterpillar, and a chrysalis. All are part of the natural world, and all are present in Arlington.

The Painting Period

Langston started painting the mural in late November 2018 and finished about a month-and-a-half later. He recalls it was bitterly cold working on the north face of the house, yet warm and sunny on the front and back. Although he’s done murals before, he says Eric and Amy’s house was his “magnum opus”—an experience for which he’ll always be grateful.

“I’d never done anything that big before. I’d never been on a 24-foot ladder trying to figure out how a butterfly should look at a distance,” he says.

He remembers that getting the caterpillar on the chimney right was hard. His original attempts looked good up-close but “weird” at a distance. He repainted the caterpillar six times before he felt it was right.
Eric is eager to point out how much research Langston did to make sure his representations of the natural world were scientifically accurate.

“If you look closely, you’ll see it’s a monarch chrysalis and a monarch caterpillar, with monarch eggs correctly positioned and proportioned,” he says. “Everything about the mural is researched and clinically accurate.”

Signature Wall

A Neighborhood Landmark

More than two years after the mural’s completion, Eric still smiles and eagerly shares when people stop by to ask about it. Some interested parties are neighbors, while others are visitors who happen to be walking by. They ask who painted it, and why, and want to hear the story. It’s become a neighborhood landmark, and Eric likes that.

“It’s a public art contribution. We see people stopping or walking past and pointing, and it’s just really sweet,” Eric says. “It was our way to add some sunshine to our world.”

Discover Hidden Gems in Arlington

Have you ever stumbled across a hidden piece of history, art, or nature that you’ve never seen before? The best way to find these hidden gems is by walking somewhere new! WalkArlington and Arlington Transportation Partners partnered together to curate an interactive map filled with hidden gems in Arlington. “The Butterfly House” is located on Columbus Street about a stone’s throw from the Columbus Street exit of Lubber Run Park. For directions and information about this and some of the other great hidden gem walking destinations in Arlington, check out the map.


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