Dothan Murals Salute to Fort Rucker

INFORMATION PROVIDED BY VISIT DOTHAN Fort Rucker is economically the most significant industry in the Wiregrass. In the 1930s, the federal government turned 35,000 acres of land into a recreational area, including a lake, picnic areas, and a game refuge to help the region recover after the Great Depression and the Boll Weevil Depression. The land was chosen in 1941 to be the training site for 30,000 infantrymen, and they called it Camp Rucker. In 1955, the Camp was changed to Fort Rucker as a permanent installation as a training camp for Army Aviation, specifically helicopter pilot training. Featured in the mural is an Apache Longbow. ARTIST/WES HARDIN

Dothan’s regionally regarded mural collection received a boost Tuesday as the Dothan City Commission donated $5,000 to prepare a wall for the next painting.

The wall faces an open area and parking lot that borders both the Dothan Opera House and East Main Street. Murals of the Wiregrass president Payne Henderson said his organization plans to commission a courthouse mural – one that perhaps captures the different iterations of the Houston County Courthouse – at the site.

The location, which is the east wall of 123 East Main St., lies close to the original location of the courthouse, Henderson added. The $5,000 gift from the city will at least help in the cost of preparing the wall for a mural, said Michael Riddle of the Murals of the Wiregrass committee.

“Mural projects take a long time due to funding. This wall has been an inviting area for one,” he said. “The problem has been the cost to repair this wall. For the city to grant us this money is really awesome. It’s a good start.”

Originally the city planned to cover the wall in a green screen, something that allows vegetation to cover the edifice, as part of beautification efforts of the open space. The space sits across Main Street from the Porter Hardware Museum, and officials determined beautification efforts could encourage pedestrian traffic between the museum and the recently renovated and expanded Dothan Opera House.

With funds left over from the Opera House project, city staffers developed an area that divides the adjacent parking lot into a plaza. Concrete benches and decorative planters will soon adorn the area, said Bob Wilkerson, a long-range planner with the City of Dothan.

“We took a patch of dirt and grass and gave it function,” he said.

The city surrendered plans for the green screen or a vinyl building wrap when officials learned Eagle Investments had granted the Murals of the Wiregrass group an easement for a mural. The wall originally served as an interior structure before the city demolished an adjacent building. It has been painted in one tone, but the paint and the brick have deteriorated throughout the years, making repairs necessary.

Henderson said once his group secures the funding for the project, it will develop a “request for proposal” from artists that contains project details, including funding.

Currently, Murals of the Wiregrass oversees 23 different murals. The latest additions include a wildlife mural on the Woodall building and a mural honoring local legend Dancin’ Dave that officials unveiled in 2016.

Follow Jeremy Wise on Twitter @DEgovbeat

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