But it won’t be that way for long.
Anniston residents gathered at the property this morning to mark the beginning of its transformation into a stop on the Anniston Civil Rights and Heritage Trail.
The epicenter of the project is a 90-foot mural along the building’s south wall that will depict scenes from West 15th Street’s height as a center of black trade.
Spirit of Anniston leaders this morning set up the sketches artists will use to paint the mural in front of the blank tableau of the wall.
The drawings show the people and businesses that used to populate West 15th Street during its busier days, working and playing above the caption: “a city within a city.”
“We hope it will bring inspiration to this community,” said Georgia Calhoun, a local leader of historical preservation projects and Spirit of Anniston board member. She addressed the crowd of 30 or so there to mark the mural’s start.
“We hope we can get all of the history on all of the buildings,” Calhoun said, noting the number of West Anniston structures that could be incorporated into the mural project.
Betsy Bean, Spirit of Anniston executive director, said she hopes the incoming members of the City Council will in the future approve the funds needed to turn the West 15th lot into a park to highlight the mural and the heritage trail – an effort the Spirit of Anniston has worked on for years to promote the history of the downtown area.
The trail includes two other murals unveiled last May. Those murals depict the buses that carried Freedom Riders as they tested the federal law desegregating travel facilities. They were attacked in Anniston on Mother’s Day 1961.
Money from Anniston and Calhoun County paid for this newest mural, while joint efforts from city leaders, the Spirit of Anniston, the Calhoun County Extension Office, students with the Anniston JROTC and Alabama A&M University helped to clean up the site.
Sidney Tyus, the owner of the building that will soon sport the commemorative mural, ensured the structure was cleaned and ready for the artwork to begin.
Meanwhile, artists John Davis and Joseph Giri have teamed up to bring the historic West 15th scenes to life: Davis drew the sketches from which Giri, the painter, will work.
At the gathering, Giri praised the participation from local residents and city leaders to turn the mural project into a reality.
“I’ve never had a community come out and put in the amount of help as this community right here,” Giri said. “That’s how redevelopment starts.”
Ward 1 Councilman Jay Jenkins attended the kick-off ceremony, as did Seyram Selase, councilman-elect for Ward 3, and state Rep. Barbara Boyd.
In her speech about the project, Calhoun observed the national anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center as she focused on local growth.
“That was a day of destruction,” she said of the devastation of the attacks 11 years ago. “But this is a day of construction.”
Staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @CSteele_star.