(Posted July 7, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
A new mural literally welcomes travelers to South Charleston.
The painted artwork adorns one end of the row of connected storefronts on South Chillicothe Street known as the Luckey Strip, named for George Luckey, a druggist whose store operated in the strip until 1903.
The storefront with the mural sits across the alley from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Jennifer McKee Crabbe owns the storefront, which is being renovated, as well as the business next door, Village Chic. The mural came about at Crabbe’s urging.
“Jennifer contacted us and offered the space,” said Sue Mattinson, a South Charleston Heritage Commission trustee. “The commission has discussed the idea of doing a mural off and on somewhere in town, but we never moved forward with it. The mural finally came about because Jennifer said, ‘Why don’t we really try this?’”
The Heritage Commission applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the Springfield Foundation for the project. Crabbe covered the cost to tuckpoint the wall to stabilize the bricks. Massie Signs & Art of Springfield painted the mural, starting with prep work on June 21.
“We wanted to keep it simple,” Mattinson said of the mural’s design.
Rather than pictorial, the mural looks more like a sign. Large letters in an old-fashioned font read, “Welcome to South Charleston,” beneath which is the line “South Charleston Historic District.”
“We picked a font that is easy to read as you’re going by. It’s a high-traffic area and has high visibility for anyone going north through town,” Mattinson said.
The mention of the historic district serves as a reminder that a large portion of South Charleston’s central core is on the National Register of Historic Places. The late George Berkhofer, founder of the Heritage Commission, successfully applied for that designation in 1978.
Inclusion of this information in the mural lets residents know they live in a historically significant area, Mattinson said. It’s also good advertising for anyone passing through who is a history buff and might want to learn more about the town’s past.
As for the building that’s now home to the mural, Mattinson said it dates back to the 1860s. While it has been vacant for a while, it has housed a variety of businesses over the decades, from a meat market to an appliance store. It also once was the Chatter Box, an after-school hangout space for children. A photo from the 1920s shows that the building’s exposed wall once was a town bulletin board of sorts, with business advertising painted on it from top to bottom.
Mattinson said the Heritage Commission hopes to complete more mural projects in years to come.
“I think it’s a way to continue to revitalize our town and make people realize it’s an attractive and fun village to visit,” she said.