February 15, 2012 Edition

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Modern Woodmen agent Josh Dement (right) and his wife, Kristie, watch as Terry Mashburn chips away plaster to reveal an early 1900s billboard painted on the brick below.

Renovation uncovers history,
contributes to economy

Gretchen Hunt

Charles Snapp made an unexpected discovery last week while working on one of the storefronts he purchased and is renovating on Main Street in Walnut Ridge.

As he chipped away at some plaster in the building that will soon house local Modern Woodmen agent Josh Dement's office, he noticed what appeared to be a letter painted on the brick.

In fact, as the remainder of the plaster came down, with assistance from Terry Mashburn of Mashburn Roofing, a billboard stating "Our Future Home, Lawrence County Bank" was revealed.

Snapp said when he and his wife, Jackie, purchased the property and had a survey done, he was informed that the neighboring building was six inches over on their property line.

"I guess that is how the original owners made up for those six inches," Snapp said. "Instead of building an adjacent wall they used the existing wall as a shared wall."

The billboard was then covered by plaster and preserved until it was discovered last week.

Jon Walter, a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society, said the Lawrence County Bank was originally located across the tracks in the building that is now Baker's Electric and moved to where First National Bank is located sometime between 1908 and 1914.

"My guess is that either the billboard was pointing across the street or the bank planned on building on the vacant lot where Charles' building is now, but that didn't happen," Walter said. One thing is for sure, the sign must predate 1934, when the building owned by Snapp was completed.

Dement said he has every intention of leaving the wall fully exposed, and plans for his office have been adjusted to allow the sign to be seen.

Mashburn, who spent a day uncovering the billboard and has worked on many of the ongoing renovation projects, said the experience has been an interesting one.

"I'm glad to see progress coming to Walnut Ridge," he said. "It has helped me out with a lot of jobs, and hopefully, it has helped a lot of people out."

Snapp said renovation projects on their buildings have resulted in work for 10 different contractors.

"Each have employed between one and eight different people who worked with them to provide the services we needed," he said. "Everyone of our contractors have been from Lawrence County."

Renovation projects going on in downtown Walnut Ridge are also helping to stimulate the economy by providing sales for local wholesale and retail suppliers.

"We have purchased material and products from five different business operations in Walnut Ridge and three others in the Northeast Arkansas area who had items that were not available in Lawrence County," Snapp said.

In addition, Downtown Walnut Ridge and the Lawrence County Tourism Committee used six different contractors for the creation of Beatles Park.

"All contractors on the Beatles Park project were from Lawrence County, and all materials purchased were purchased in Lawrence County," Snapp said.

In addition, another renovation project is underway on Main Street. Carlos Aguilar, owner of Adrianna's, has purchased the old Moore Bros. building (most recently Captain Catfish) and is renovating it for future use as a restaurant.

Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director L.J. Bryant said the work being done will not only pay off in the long run, it is helping now through providing work and sales for local businesses.

"It is said that people who are good at making excuses are rarely good at anything else," he said. "Charles and other local business leaders aren't making excuses. They are taking action to stimulate our economy, keeping dollars here."

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