(Published 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 after George Luckey, a pharmacist whose shop operated in the strip until 1903.
The showcase with the mural is in front of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Jennifer McKee Crabbe owns the storefront, which is being renovated, as well as the neighboring business, Village Chic. The mural was born at the request of Crabbe.
“Jennifer contacted us and offered the space,” said Sue Mattinson, administrator of the South Charleston Heritage Commission. “The commission discussed the idea of doing a mural somewhere in town, but we never moved forward. The mural eventually came about because Jennifer said, “Why aren’t we really trying this?”
The Heritage Commission applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the Springfield Foundation for the project. Crabbe covered the cost of folding back the wall to stabilize the bricks. Massie Signs & Art of Springfield painted the mural, beginning with prep work on June 21.
“We wanted it to be 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,” under which is the line “South Charleston Historic District.”
“We chose a font that was easy to read as we went. It’s a high traffic area and has great visibility for anyone heading north through the city,” Mattinson said.
The mention of the Historic District serves as a reminder that much of South Charleston’s central core is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The late George Berkhofer, founder of the Heritage Commission, successfully applied for this designation in 1978.
Including this information in the mural lets residents know they live in a historically significant area, Mattinson said. It’s also good publicity for anyone who is a history buff and wants to know more about the city’s past.
As for the building that now houses the mural, Mattinson said it dates back to the 1860s. Although it has been vacant for some time, it has housed various businesses over the decades, ranging from a meat market at an appliance store. It was also formerly the Chatter Box, an after-school hangout space for children. A photo from the 1920s shows that the building’s exposed wall was once something of a municipal bulletin board, with commercial advertisements painted on it from top to bottom.
Mattinson said the Heritage Commission hopes to complete more mural projects in the coming years.
“I think it’s a way to continue to revitalize our town and make people realize that it’s an attractive and fun village to visit,” she said.