Several people have been commenting on social media in recent days after photos of renovations being done to the West Street business began to circulate.
The work involves putting new siding on the building and the wooden strapping in place so far covers over the mural painted on the building in 1997.
The artwork shows a locomotive steaming through the Wreckhouse area of southwestern Newfoundland and the visage of Lauchie MacDougall, a longtime resident of the area who was renowned for his ability to predict when the legendary Wreckhouse winds were going to be too strong for the trains and other traffic to pass through safely.
Bashir Habib owned the building when the mural was first painted 20 years ago. He said the building needs to be freshened up now and believes siding is a better option than painting.
He never realized people were so passionate about the painting on the wall until the work began. If someone is willing to do the work to preserve the artwork, Habib is all for keeping it in view.
“I don’t want to get anybody upset and, if I can work something out with the city, I’m happy to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to hide it or take it out or destroy it. I’d like to see it kept there.”
The image has already been compromised to a degree by the placement of a heat pump fan in the middle of the piece. Habib said he unfortunately had no other space to locate that device when it was installed.
Like the rest of the building, the paint on the mural is cracked and peeling in places.
Habib has been in discussions with the Corner Brook Downtown Business Association about a plan to preserve the mural. He would like to see the work framed out around the new siding and the paint touched up professionally.
The work was originally done by Chad Anstey, who was involved in painting a number of murals in downtown Corner Brook around 1997. Some of those other works — on the former Majestic Theatre and on a Herald Avenue optometry shop — are now long gone, having been painted over by the owners of the buildings they were on.
Anstey said he was flattered by the fact people still cared about this work 20 years later and would love to see it preserved, but not at the expense of Habib’s livelihood.
“It’s the guy’s business and he can do whatever he wants with it and I am not happy hearing people threatening not to go to that business now because of this,” Anstey said in an interview Wednesday. “I have heard nothing but great things about this man and his family in the community and I would be deeply disappointed that this would have any negative impact on his business.”
Anstey, who now works as a business consultant in the oil industry in Alberta, said he would come home and freshen up the piece himself if he had the time and money to do so.
He would like the person who helped him with the mural, an artist by the name of Shawn Martin in St. John’s, be the one asked to do any touch-up work required.
Anstey noted that, of all the mural works he did in Corner Brook, this was his favorite because of the style and how it really captured the story of Lauchie MacDougall.
He would love to see it framed up around the new siding Habib is installing.
“I think a frame would actually draw more attention to it,” he said.
Nicole MacKinnon of the Downtown Business Association confirmed there is a plan afoot to save the mural. The association has applied to the City of Corner Brook’s business improvement program for funding help to do it.
Like Anstey, she too is concerned about the backlash the pizzeria might get from the thought of covering up the art.
“We don’t want to see any business suffer because of something like this,” she said.
One option, said MacKinnon, is to have another artist recreate it in a different location.
Habib wouldn’t want to see that and said, if the image is to live on, it should be the original on his building.