A 7Up print by John Alcorn sat hidden in the wall of the Harden Street building for decades. It’s now uncovered and will be visible in the new book store. (Photo by Stephen Pastis)
When Clint Wallace, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, began renovating the former The Thirsty Parrot building in Five Points, he expected to uncover historic elements. But finding a 40-year-old mural sealed inside the wall was unexpected.
“We thought there might be things sort of hidden and hidden aspects to it, but it’s kind of a journey and a learning experience,” Wallace said. “That was sort of a cool surprise.”
Wallace is renovating the building to open a community bookstore, All Good Books, but also to bring back a connection to the building’s past. The work revealed the mural, which is an advertisement from the 1970s for 7Up — something he definitely plans to save.
The building was one of the first buildings in Five Points, according to documents submitted by Wallace to city planners.
So far, a construction team has started to remove the exterior facade’s red stucco that covered the nearly 100-year-old brick and started to expand the inside of the building. The removal of some interior walls revealed the mural, which has been plastered over.
Wallace quickly contacted Historic Columbia, and the mural was eventually identified.
Historic Columbia isn’t surprised there are cool details that in a building that is this old, Wallace said.
The building was built in 1923 by Thomas Hair, an influential Columbia lawyer. Hair contributed greatly to the development of Five Points through other buildings as well.
The Harden Street building started as a meat market and pharmacy but has been dozens of things since. Most recently, the building was The Thirsty Parrot, a bar. But before that it was a popular Greek restaurant for nearly 30 years, named The Parthenon. But its complete history isn’t known.
John Sherrer, the director of cultural resources at Historic Columbia, has been working with Wallace to identify the mural’s history.
“When you think of these layers of history and whatnot, these layers of usage, you can sometimes very much see them in the designs that are left behind,” Sherrer said.
The mural seems to be a print of a 1969 7Up soda ad by graphic artist John Alcorn. The ad was part of a re-brand for the soda company — styled in ’70s swirling, psychedelic colors and patterns for an “UnCola campaign” — a last ditch effort to prevent bankruptcy, according to CollectorsWeekly.com.
Hippies embraced the psychedelia and saved 7up, and John Alcorn’s work has been hiding in Five Points ever since.
“I don’t have exactly what that building was used for in that year,” Sherrer said. “I’m just curious to know as to like, why that.”
It’s likely the mural went up some time after the campaign, but why it would be in that building is unclear, Sherrer said.
One of the things Historic Columbia does is help preserve character-defining qualities of buildings in the areas. While the poster is more telling than defining, it’s an insight into the history and usages of the building overtime, Sherrer said.
“For us, it, I think, is kind of another way of getting people to think critically about the buildings and the built environment around them,” Sherrer said. “For lack of a better term, kind of part of the metaphor, but it’s like, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’”
“This is one page in a chapter of the history, the various chapters of the usage of the site,” Sherrer said.
Steve Cook, the president of the Five Points Association, said he’s happy to see people preserving the history of the area and helping build the diversity of the district. It’s something he said has always been in a state of ebb and flow, but he’s happy to see it again in Five Points.
“People come in, they’ll change things, and then now reverting back in a historical sense, is a cool part of it,” Cook said. “Five Points is always in flux. I think that’s one of the cool things about the neighborhood. It’s not new construction. It’s always changing.”
He appreciates how some cities, particularly those he has visited in Europe, retain their history better than Columbia often has.
“It’s crazy to think (about) the things that go in style and then out of style,” Cook said. “How in the world would you cover that beautiful brick with stucco?”
Wallace is going to leave the mural where it is. He’ll put shelving in front of it, so it won’t be immediately visible.
But he plans to get a copy of the 7Up poster to hang nearby to commemorate it.
On the building’s exterior, workers found another gem when they removed the stucco — signage potentially related to a battery company that predates 1965.
“It kind of begs the question, ‘Just what else is underneath all of the other historic buildings?’” Sherrer said.
Stucco painted red has been removed from the exterior of the building. The facade will be restored to the original brick from the early 1900s. (Photo by Stephen Pastis)
Members of the Pot and Plant Garden Club work on a Five Points beautification project in April 1965, as seen here in a photo from The State newspaper archive. (Photo courtesy of the renovation application to the city of Columbia)
The wall that covered up the 7up mural was previously a beer ad at The Thirsty Parrot. (Photo courtesy of Clint Wallace)
The hidden mural was a series of similar advertisements by 7Up. The ad campaign brought the soda company back to life, according to CollectorsWeekly.com. (Photo courtesy of Brad Davis, vice president of business development at McCrory Construction)