This morning’s Design Review Committee approved painting over an historic mural advertising sign (above) which has delighted passerby for years at the corner of 19th Street and First Avenue South. The sign, which shows two couples in evening dress enjoying a television program, was presented by the building owner’s representative as too costly to restore, and not worthwhile to preserve in its current state due to unfavorable warranties on clear sealers (the owner plans to repair, repaint, and waterproof this entire brick wall).
The mural is based on the above print ad for Sentinel TV, ca. 1953. Why are painted murals like this so important in an urban environment? They give character and texture to otherwise blank expanses of brick; they remind us of the layers of history old building have; and they make the public space we move through unique. Without them we have just a bunch of painted brick walls.
One irony of this unfortunate decision by the committee (despite a valiant plea from member Nolanda Hatcher to save the sign) is that literally a few yards away is the Birmingham Printing and Publishing sign (above) which was carefully preserved when design firm ArchitectureWorks renovated the building for their offices a decade ago.
Perhaps a greater irony is the mural’s context (above), which includes Railroad Park a block away, proposed mixed-use development directly across the street, and the soon-to-be-decommissioned Alabama Power Steam Plant with its intriguing potential right beyond that. Oh, and a new baseball park under construction a couple blocks west with all the anticipated surrounding development. One can imagine few places in town where we shouldn’t be trying harder to maintain what’s unique about our historical buildings, as we anticipate lots of new construction and foot traffic to be joining them soon.
[thanks to Vintage Ad Browser for the print ad]