CANYONVILLE — A powerful gust of wind from a storm last winter ripped off a metal facade on an old historical building in downtown Canyonville, uncovering an old mural that hadn’t been seen in several decades.
Now, groups in Canyonville are working to preserve the mural, which was painted around 1946 on the building where the Ritter Theater was once housed. The building is now is home to the Pioneer Market, a convenience store on Main Street across from Gordon’s Pharmacy in downtown.
The windstorm ripped off about an 8-foot section of metal. Mike Barton, the manager of the store, said he got a boom truck to pull down the rest of the metal so it wasn’t a safety hazard. The project ended up exposing the mural, which depicts a landscape with waterfalls.
“It’s definitely cool and got a lot of people’s attention,” he said. “It got them talking, and that’s how the historical society got involved.”
Barton wants to restore the mural, but said it was too costly. He was considering painting over it before the South Umpqua Historical Society stepped in.
“We want to put the (marquee) awning back on so it looks like the old movie theater, because that’s the point of trying to make the building look historic again,” he said.
The biggest thing is getting patches of stucco repaired from where gouges were left from the nail holes where they attached the metal to the building.
Susan Applegate, a descendant of pioneer Jesse Applegate, for whom the Applegate Trail is named, has agreed to repair the mural, and Victory Builders will repair and replace the stucco as needed if the group can raise the money.
“To keep it authentic, (Susan Applegate) would touch up the spots that were damaged in the remodeling of the building,” Barton said.
The stucco repair alone would cost about $10,000, and possibly thousands more for the painting. The movie marquee structure will also have to be rebuilt.
Now it’s up to the historical society and other groups in the area to come up with enough money to do the repairs. The store name would be displayed on the marquee like the movies were in the old days, so the store sign won’t block the mural. But Barton is getting a little anxious to get it done.
“The whole time I’ve been waiting, we’ve had no signage out front, letting anybody know this is a store,” Barton said. “We took all the signs down, and it just kind of came to a stop because I do want it restored,” he said.
The site originally had a livery stable in the early 1920s when it was purchased by Frank and Ruth Scovill Blattner, who tore it down and built a dance hall. During the week they would show an occasional movie, and then it turned into a dance hall on Saturday nights.
In 1946, the dance hall was purchased by Joe and Mildred Ritter who added the marquee front and turned it into a movie theater. The mural was painted at that time, but the art was eventually hidden by the metal covering some years later when other businesses occupied the building.
Susan Waddle of the South Umpqua Historical Society said the Canyonville Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce and many citizens of Canyonville want to see the mural and the stucco on the front of the store restored and are working to raise the money to do the work.
“We have committed $2,000 to begin toward the goal of $11,000,” Waddle said. “We are hoping the public will want to see the mural preserved as well.”
Waddle said it’s an important part of history in Canyonville that needs to be preserved.
“It’s very unusual and this is very unique — something that was preserved from 1946 — so that’s amounting to a few years now,” she said.
Barton has a donation jar in his store and he’s also going to do some raffles to raise money for the project. Donations may be made to the South Umpqua Historical Society, P.O. Box 1112, Canyonville, OR 97417.