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The past has come alive again in Downtown Mooresville, with a recent restoration of historic wall signs by Brushcan Custom Murals, of Asheville.
Six signs, including the Seltz Shoes, Coca-Cola, and Mills Department wall signs on South Broad Street, as well as the Kelly Clothing Company, Parking, and Goodman Drugs wall signs, located on North Main Street, have faded over time, and Brushcan began working on them in early June to bring them back to their former glory.
Jeremy Russell and Scott Alred, of Brushcan, spent a total of 17 days and 155 hours carefully reconstructing the wall signs. In order to accurately capture the original look of the signs, research was done to generate images of what the faded signs used to look like from old store advertisements found in local newspapers.
Scott Alred said that Brushcan has been able to develop a technique to “fine tune” the amount of restoration done to the historic wall signs, to allow them to stay “beautifully subtle and faded” and keep their historic design, while still becoming more legible and preserved for the future.
“We start by studying the wall and identifying as much of the original layout as possible,” Alred said. “If there are multiple signs painted on top of each other, we find out which came first, and how the different paint colors helped preserve one another.”
Alred said that after documenting the wall as it is, it's carefully cleaned and then sealed with an acrylic urethane to lock everything that still exists from the original sign onto the wall.
“We then custom mix paint with exterior professional grade acrylic to match what is on the wall, usually subtle and very muted colors, and the paint is slowly layered and applied in a variety of unconventional techniques,” he said. “When the desired level of restoration is achieved, the sign has the charm of an original, but it’s now preserved.”
The final step for Brushcan is a protective varnish to add additional protection from the sun.
The restoration cost approximately $18,600 for all six signs along Main Street and Broad Street and was a joint collaborative effort between the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission, its Beautification Committee, with funding from Mooresville’s Town Board.
Downtown Mooresville now has a total of nine historic wall signs that have been restored, and plans for future restorations are being considered.