By LINDA KOLMODIN
September 23, 2021
Albion’s spectacular Coca-Cola sign and historic plaque were dedicated Saturday at the Festival of the Forks 2021, a full two years after the fundraising kicked off in 2019
Community supporters gathered to view the newly completed mural. The plaque about the history of the circa 1912 restored advertising “spectacular,” a type of billboard used by the Coca-Cola Company.
Co-chairs for the matching Patronicity grant fundraising campaign Janet Domingo and Linda Kolmodin thanked the community for their support.
“We are grateful to the community for the support in this restoration of this iconic mural. The historic plaque explains the story of Coca-Cola advertising and particularly of our large mural over the Kalamazoo River, “ Kolmodin said.
She and Domingo especially thanked some super supporters who helped make the Patronicity campaign a huge success.
Included in these thanks were
- Albion Area Philanthropic Women
- Men Who Give
- Tony and Christie de Nicola
- the Coca-Cola Company
- Tonya Arnett’s personal work to contact,
- Barb Rafaill and
- Becky Merrild Hallin, the building owner.
- Erin Schultz was recognized as a hard-working member of the volunteer team.
Ron Koenig, CEO of Building Arts & Conservation Inc. of Saline and project lead conservator spoke about the process for restoring this mural. Koenig said that he was honored to restore this sign. He praised the community for its intense interest in the restoration and for its friendliness. He commented that he had never had such a warm welcome to any town before this project. Koenig outlined the difficulty of accessing this mural over the Kalamazoo River.
He stated that he believes it is the largest Coca-Cola sign in the country and certainly the only one over a river.
After the plaque was unveiled Domingo read the wording to those gathered. The bronze plaque in Bournelis Park across from the mural reads:
RESTORE OUR COKE SIGN:
Bring Art and History Downtown
Albion’s iconic Coca-Cola wall mural is one of the largest spectaculars since the company painted the first 1894 advertising sign in Cartersville, Georgia.
The original murals were modeled after the old “circus coming to town” flyers and featured classic red, white, black and yellow colors. Authenticated by the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company archivist, our sign was painted circa 1908-1912 after Albion’s great flood of 1908.
Before the flood, the Davis Piano Store occupied the building. The top of that sign is faintly visible at the top of the Coca-Cola sign. Our over-the-river location and large size make Albion’s sign unique among the 16,000 painted by the company from the 1890s to the 1970s.
In 1983 community leaders Mary Margaret Moore and Polly Ballou raised funds to repaint the faded ghost sign. Restoration of the original sign began in 2019 through the fundraising efforts of volunteer co-chairs Janet Domingo and Linda Kolmodin.
Restoration funds were raised in a 45-day community Patronicity matching gift campaign through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation with the administrative support of the Albion Community Foundation.
Following a 2020 year-long pandemic delay the sign was restored in 2021 by Building Arts & Conservation Inc. of Saline, Michigan using the original paint palette and historic design.
Dedicated September 18, 2021
Photos for this article were provided by Maggie LaNoue.
- Stories by Linda Kolmodin – albionmich.net/writer-kolmodin/
- The Coca-Cola mural restoration project: http://albionmich.net/category/downtown/coca-cola-mural/
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