Monmouth mural draws interest

Revealed during the demolition of the building at 183 Main St., the mural on the historic Crider's Department Store building is visible, for now.

MONMOUTH -- Sally Crider said she was somewhat somber about the demolition of the charred building that housed the Real Taste of India restaurant -- it used to belong to her late father, Van Crider, decades ago.

"I was thinking, `Wouldn't it be neat if they found something underneath it all? In the ground maybe?'" Crider said.

She was close.

While tearing down the structure at 183 Main St. on Dec. 15, workers uncovered a vintage -- and remarkably well-preserved -- Coca-Cola mural on the west exterior wall of the adjoining Petals & Vines, 173 Main St. W.

That property was also owned by Van Crider. He incorporated the wall of the earlier building into the subsequent Real Taste site and simply covered it up, said Bodie Bemrose, a developer who co-owns both lots.

"You couldn't do that today with current building codes," Bemrose said.

Bemrose said the razing process was partly done by hand so as to not damage the neighboring business.

"When they were peeling the brick back, they noticed the writing above," Bemrose said. "We could see just the tops of the bottle caps and thought it would be cool if it happened to be a Coke mural."

How old it is is unknown.

The Petals & Vines building was part of Crider's Department Store and constructed long before Van Crider erected the two-story building at the corner of Main Street and Monmouth Avenue in the early 1950s.

Sally Crider said she rode her bike around that lot as a youth when it was still empty and doesn't remember ever seeing the mural or hearing her father talk about it.

When she learned that the artwork had been uncovered, she immediately drove from her home in Corvallis to take her own pictures.

"It's fabulous. It's like a time capsule discovery," she said.

The finding does present an interesting dilemma -- Bemrose is in the process of erecting a 6,000-square-foot building that abuts the mural.

Bemrose said he's already been bombarded with phone calls from residents about preserving the painting.

"There was one who said `we would rather you not build there so we can see the mural,'" Bemrose said.

Bemrose said he will explore whether the wall of his new complex can be engineered in a way where the mural can remain exposed on the interior first and second floors.

If that's not financially feasible, he might commission an artist to reproduce the mural on the Monmouth Avenue side of the forthcoming building, he said.

"We're going to contact Coca-Cola's historic division and see if we can work something out," he said.

Sally Crider said she hopes the mural can be saved, but understands the cost might make that impractical.

Still, she said the finding was "almost like a Christmas present."

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