CENTRAL POINT — A newly installed mural banner will transform the downtown view heading west on Pine Street, offering a glimpse into the city's earlier days on a quiet afternoon in 1911.
The city's Beautification Committee came up with the idea of the 85-by-20-foot fabric banner to hang on the east side of the historic 21/2-story Cowley building on Pine Street.
The black-and-white image, depicting nearly the same vantage point at which the banner now hangs, was coordinated by community volunteer Debbie Saxbury after Beautification Committee members discussed introducing elements to the downtown in tribute to the city's early days.
While Pine Street is now lined with cars and myriad colored street signs, the banner's image shows a simpler time, when horses provided transportation, the city's buildings still boasted freshly painted trim, and a newly paved road was a modern addition to the railroad community.
Produced by Dave Wetzell of Southern Oregon Signs in Medford and installed by Signs, Etc. of Central Point, the image was unveiled Thursday morning just in time for Fourth of July festivities.
Saxbury said the "mural" offered an instant face lift and artistic element to the downtown and covered a nondescript old building, the city's tallest, which previously was marked mostly by peeling paint. Cost for the project, she said, was just under $3,000.
Settled in about 1852 by pioneer Isaac Constant, the city was an important intersection between two wagon routes. A store was established by the Magruder Brothers in 1870, according to "Oregon Geographic Names" reports, with a post office established in 1872.
Saxbury said time was spent perusing old photos for an image that would enlarge without losing much quality and depict an identifiable scene for residents and visitors.
"I just got this crazy idea to display a larger-than-life mural banner of downtown Central Point in the early 1900s," Saxbury said.
A longtime resident and advocate for creating historic displays around the downtown, Saxbury said she hoped the mural would "inspire our community to learn more about the humble beginnings" of the town.
Medford photographer Louis Ruth, who aided the committee in restoring and enhancing the image before production, was eager to see the final product.
"It's a very cool idea to think of people pulling into town and seeing this old image," Ruth said.
"The original had so many scratches and blemishes so I spent some time. If you were to blow up the before-and-after version, you wouldn't recognize the photo. I think it's going to look very nice."
Saxbury said the size of the banner sparked some curiosity during Thursday's installation as well as during the quest to find a place that could create the wall covering.
"I had seven different sign guys down there (Thursday) and all of them said they'd never seen a banner that big in their lives and they've all been in the business for a long time," Saxbury said with a laugh.
"Central Point may not have the most history and it may not have the prettiest buildings but I am so proud of my community and so glad that the city of Central Point approved this wonderful project. It's just a really nice addition to the downtown and I hope we can do several more."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.