Throwback signs, ‘ghost’ murals get new life in Alexander City

Work is now complete on the fifth mural restoration project in the downtown Alexander City area. This mural, a Coca-Cola sign that was buried below many layers of paint ion the top side of what is now the United Way office on Main Street. (Mitch Sneed / The Outlook)

People driving through downtown Alexander City lately have most likely noticed several murals on the sides of a handful of buildings getting repainted and brought back to life. Old ads for Chero-Cola, Coca-Cola, Radney Brothers Furniture and Barton’s Wholesale and Retail are just as new looking today as they were when they were first painted for everyone in downtown to see.

“One of our goals in 2017 was to bring these ghost murals back,” said Richard Wagoner with Main Street Alexander City. “We began looking around and seeing where they might be.”

Mural work in downtown began in 2015 with the painting of an image celebrating the Alexander City JazzFest on the side of City Pawn Shop. However, it was not until 2016 when Main Street began pushing for the revival of these five ghost murals, weathered images that were barely visible and nearly lost to time.

“Virgil Roberts was the chair of the design committee at the time. He mentioned the murals and asked, what did we want to do with them?” Wagoner said.

After the design committee agreed to breathe new life into these murals, it went before the Main Street board as a whole, where the plan was approved to continue moving forward.

“We thought they would bring a little something back to downtown,” Wagoner said.

In order to finance this undertaking, Wagoner said Main Street solicited donations from a number of individuals, which raised approximately half of the necessary funds for the project. A matching fund from the Adelia McConnell Russell Foundation provided the remainder, and work on the murals began with Charles Forbus of Sign Source in Dadeville doing the painting.

Using old photographs and online resources as a guide to what these murals looked like in their heyday, Wagoner said they were careful to use the exact same colors they had originally been painted in.

“We wanted them to be historically accurate,” he said.

Wagoner said the first one to be completed was the Chero-Cola mural in the alleyway behind city hall, followed by the Barton’s Wholesale and Retail advertisement on the back of the Carlisle Drugs building, then the Radney Brothers Furniture sign on the United Way building before wrapping up with the Coca-Cola murals on Wheeler Street and the United Way building.

“All five of them have been completed,” Wagoner said. “I wish we had more of them to do.”

Since the Alexander City ghost mural project has been completed, Wagoner said he has heard a lot of people who are excited for having these eye-catching pieces brought back to life, adding that much more to the downtown area.

“It was fun watching them come back to life,” he said. “People were enjoying watching the work and seeing the progress that was made every day.”