Murals on Main ~ North Prairie Street, Union Springs, AL
Union Springs, Alabama, has long been known for its many historic buildings and sites. In fact, North Prairie Street, the main street of downtown, has been designated as a historic district because of the many buildings on the historical registry.
Now, this main street of Union Springs is proud to be the home to five impressive murals. Painted by renowned artist Wes Hardin, they are representative of the citizens, traditions, and history of Bullock County. #1 on Map - Country singer Hank Williams was from southeast Alabama, and in his beginning years sang at many events throughout the region. In 1948, Mr. E.L. Jackson, owner of the newly built Western Auto located on North Prairie Street, hired Williams to play at its grand opening. The photo from which the panoramic portion of the mural is painted, was taken by local photographer Cephus Hendley. Legend has it that just about everyone who was living in the town on that day is in the photo! #2 on Map - The Union Springs Train Depot was built in Union Springs in 1899. An article in the Union Springs Herald (3/29/1899) stated, “for years and years the city sorely needed not only a new and commodious passenger depot building, but one that could be called decent and respectable—that the citizens of this place would not be ashamed of. It is with pleasure and pride that all here now view the neat, handsome, commodious and elegant building that the Central of Georgia Railroad Company has just completed.” Although the building no longer exists, the mural at the corner of N. Prairie Street and Conecuh Avenue memorializes it. The Coal Chute depicted in the mural was built in 1925 as a replacement for the chute which had burned. It can still be seen today. #3 on Map - Singer Eddie Kendricks, the first lead tenor for The Temptations, was born on December 17, 1939, in Union Springs to Johnny and Lee Bell Kendrick (the “s” was added later). Formed in Detroit, under Motown Records, the group’s original lineup featured three Alabama natives – Kendricks, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin – and became one of the most successful musical acts in history. Throughout their career, the group released 14 Billboard R&B No.1 singles, such as classics “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” and “My Girl,” and won three Grammy Awards. Kendricks also released two No. 1 R&B singles as a solo artist – “Boogie Down” and “Keep on Truckin’.Kendricks and The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. (Graydon Rust, Alabama 200) #4 on Map - Bullock County is well known for agri-business Bonnie Plants, the Red Door Theatre, and the Bird Dog Monument (located in the center of downtown’s main street at the intersection of N. Prairie Street and Hardaway Avenue). Bonnie Plants celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2018 and is nationally known as a leading producer of vegetable plants. The Red Door Theatre, founded in 2002 and operating under the auspices of the Tourism Council of Bullock County, produces several plays annually and entertains audiences from throughout Alabama and surrounding states. The Bird Dog Monument symbolizes Union Springs’ status as the “Bird Dog Field Trial Capital of the World.” It pays tribute to Bullock County’s unexcelled upland hunting bird dogs and the Bullock County residents elected as members of the Field Trial Hall of Fame in Grand Junction, Tennessee. #5 on Map - The larger than life Field Trial mural on the north side of the building located at 140 N. Prairie Street was dedicated on February 9, 2017. It was commissioned by the Tourism Council of Bullock County with donations from field trial enthusiasts from all over the United States. This classic field trial scene represents the competitive and social events that highlight Bullock
County field trials.
The small stroke of the paintbrush, not even an inch wide, is dwarfed by the massive mural on the large brick wall. But the artist, Wes Hardin, patiently continues to paint, stroke by stroke, layer upon layer, color upon color. Slowly the scenes take shape, and the characters come to life.
Hardin, who was raised along the Gulf Coast, started painting in high school. His introduction to large imagery came early, thanks to a teacher who let students paint on the school walls. His first commission was at a Panama City, Fla., community college, to paint the story of the English literature hall. After studying illustration and ad design at the Art Institute in south Florida, he continued to build a portfolio of work done on walls, buildings, on gym floors and in stadiums, working for private and corporate commissions as a freelance designer and illustrator.
He became creative director of an outdoor company in Dothan, AL, several years ago, and now continues to live and work there as a portrait artist and muralist. Dothan features several of Hardin’s impressive murals — a salute to Fort Rucker, one on Wiregrass contemporary
music and a tribute to the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the state. In whatever town he’s working, Hardin becomes a familiar sight to residents; most of his works take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to complete. Passers-by drop by frequently while he’s working, sometimes just to say “good job,” but sometimes they’re moved to park their cars and strike up a conversation.
Residents often stop and tell him their personal stories (about the subject he is painting). He doesn’t consider it an intrusion at all, and good-naturedly talks with curious onlookers.
Having opinions about his work is a good thing, Hardin said, because it means they feel a sense of ownership of it. “I’ve never had any vandalism. I can’t explain that, but people feel a certain pride, because it’s theirs. They’re very gracious and they thank me, but it’s theirs.”
Excerpts from the article - “Capturing Life,” Alabama Living Magazine (April 2015)