Nothing brings out a crowd like a demolition. Several hundred people took turns Wednesday watching a piece of downtown history come tumbling to the ground when excavators reduced the former Bird Building to a heap of rubble.
Several times people could be heard muttering that the Signature Mural – a casualty of the demolition – should have been saved. As noble as those thoughts and concerns were there was very little people could do to save a building that was longer safe and would eventually crumble on its own if the town didn’t take steps to prevent that by having it demolished.
Back in December, when the town’s dangerous and unsightly premises committee recommended the building be demolished, there was hardly a whimper of public protest. Maybe people realized there was little that could be done since the building was in such a state of disrepair that it would cost more to fix than to reduce it to rubble.
The Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society had a dream nearly two decades ago of developing a series of murals that would not only bring people to the downtown but help educate them about their past. The project was an overwhelming success in that it not only raised awareness of our history, but it became a tourist attraction in itself.
It’s unfortunate the key piece of that project, the Signature Mural, happened to be located on a building that was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair to where it passed the point of no return and had to be destroyed.
DARS chair Beth Munroe said there could be a silver lining from the mural’s demolition in that many people have begun to take the murals for granted. While they haven’t been neglected or vandalized, they are often ignored as people drive and walk along the downtown streets.
Hopefully people will be more aware of the remaining murals and the story they tell of Amherst history because the day will come when there’s no one here to tell the community’s verbal history to future generations.