Thursday, November 30, 2023

Burgaw business unveils mural honoring railroad history

BURGAW — While the small Pender County town continues to hash out its first mural ordinance, one local business owner has unveiled a new piece of work, visible from the town square.

READ MORE: ‘Lots of unanswered questions’: Burgaw mural discussion continues, public input welcome

Burgaw Antiqueplace’s John Westbrook began working with Eden Mills, another Burgaw business owner, to create a piece of art reflecting the town’s history.

Westbrook’s historic building adds to the national register and has roughly 10 front-facing windows, some of which have been broken in recent years. Rather than replace them, he decided to cover a portion of space near his entrance with wood and have Eden paint it.

According to a press release from the town, Westbrook worked with the town’s local historian, Mike Taylor, researching William A. Wright. Wright was the president of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company, located on Wright Street, where Burgaw Antiqueplace is located.

The company ran day and night express trains, as well as freight trains in the mid-19th century, at the time Burgaw was founded. A passenger locomotive, number 31, was named after Wright and ran through the town.

This is the basis of Mills’ mural, visible at the front entrance of the antique store.

“I wanted to turn this space into a place for art,’’ Westbrook said in a press release. “I wanted it to have historical relevance.”

Mills, an artist since youth, has done other murals in the area and also operates Art of Eden out of the antique store.

“It was an honor to paint the W. A. Wright train,” she said in a release. “Murals will help our businesses grow as people and tourists admire these works of art.”

Local leaders have been discussing the implementation of a new mural ordinance to elevate public art and draw in tourism to Burgaw. The first draft of the ordinance garnered some pushback among locals, as many disagreed with not allowing paintings on the front of storefronts or mandating murals can only be painted on buildings but not on other materials that attach to the walls.

Burgaw commissioners voted to continue the discussion in March. Shortly thereafter, the town launched a survey and hosted an in-person feedback session to help refine the rules before commissioners voted on it.

The updated ordinance passed April 11 unanimously and includes any “type of sign consisting of painted graphics or any other images that are painted directly on, or mounted to, the surface of a wall or fence.”

Murals can be placed on the rear and sides of a structure; art on a side-facing street is limited to 15% of the total area. Murals are allowed on internal-facing fences and some external ones, but not outwardly if the fence faces the street. All public art displays must be upkept and are required to follow the same standards as signage. The murals also require a permit and maintenance plan to be signed off on by the commissioners before implemented.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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