By Don Rush
Since 1971 when the Oakland Hotel was demolished, there has been a vacant lot on the west side of N. Washington Street. Over the years it’s been used for a few things like a farmers market, but for the most part it has remained vacant, slowly deteriorating. That has changed.
Residents will notice the busted up concrete has been replaced with new blacktop and on the wall to the north of the lot is a brand new mural. “We wanted to create a community space, a place where teens, or anyone can hang out,” Oxford Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kelly Westbrook said. “We’re calling it ‘Washington Square.’”
The lot, which is owned by Curtiss Pagels, will continue to be a community space until a buyer can be found, she said. The new asphalt was donated by Birmingham Sealcoat.
The mural on the wall of Sister’s Hair Care is the work of 2001 Oxford High School graduate Nick Hottmann. Hottmann, who now lives in Idaho, came to town especially for this project.
“The inspiration for the wall was initially developing a community wall based on the events from November,” Hottmann said. “But, after talking with Kelly Westbrook from the Oxford DDA, students and parents in the community we decided to design and redirect our focus into a community mural highlighting some unique characteristics that make Oxford what it is. Kelly the DDA and myself developed a concept of a bold Oxford text with the history of the buildings in the background.”
The mural highlights local buildings including the Masonic Hall, the old Patterson’s Pharmacy (at the southeast corner of Washington and Burdick) and Centennial Park.
“I also included seven stars and four hearts to pay tribute to those impacted by the event in November without it becoming the entire mural. This was important to me because these buildings are part of my childhood. I grew up in the Village (on Hovey St) and have fond memories of going into Patterson’s to buy comic books, getting snacks from Mr. (Bill) Patterson and then Tim Davidson. I loved playing in Centennial and walking the village streets, eating ice cream at Keslor’s Corner (Which is where Red Knapp’s American Grill is now) and watching a movie at the Twin Cinema. It’s my hometown and it helped me grow into the man I am today. I know the names have changed, shops have come and gone, but it’s still Oxford. My home for almost 30 years. The hearts and stars are also important because we need to remember those lost and impacted, but we also need to rise up and remember we can overcome.”
The project was started on June 3 and completed last weekend – about 70 hours of work, including prep time, painting, projecting images at night, working through rain and clean up time. According to Hottmann he used about 12 gallons of paint. “Most of the wall has at least 3 coats of paint and primer. As well as weather sealer. This helps prevent sun fading,” he said.
“I want to thank Oxford for being such a wonderful community. As someone who grew up here, this mural is something I’m blessed and thankful for having the opportunity to complete. Everyone has been so amazing and supportive. I never thought 20-plus years ago being in art class that I would be painting a mural in the village. Oxford has been through so much over the past few years and I’m happy that I could come in and help create this community space. I know it has been a community coming together with the DDA, alumni, local businesses, donors and more to help develop this new space. So thank you Oxford for letting this OHS grad come back to share and give back to my community. I’m thankful to be a Wildcat, I’m thankful to be raised here, and thankful for all the kind words and support. I try to represent Oxford wherever I go.”
Hottmann is the son of Rick and Deb (Rossman) Hottmann who still live locally. He is now a full-time muralist and freelance graphic designer.