Officials on Wednesday announced a building adjacent to the Freedom Riders National Monument has been purchased by conservationists who plan to donate for use as part of the monument.
The 2,400-square-foot building, at 1029 Gurnee Ave., includes an exterior wall on which a mural of a Freedom Riders bus is painted. The purchase will not only ensure preservation of the mural, but will give officials a site for an interpretative center for the monument. Park officials hope to renovate the bus station itself to look as it did in the 1960s.
The Conservation Fund, a preservation and economic development nonprofit, bought the property, but representatives of the nonprofit notified Anniston leaders that it would donate the property to the city.
Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said the Conservation Fund has been involved with the Freedom Riders project for a while and has been a great partner.
“It is great news and will help with the overall development of the Civil Rights Trail,” Draper said about the property. “It’s important that that building was acquired to tell the story and we’re pleased they want to donate it to us, and I thank the Conservation Fund.”
Andrew Schock, Alabama/Georgia director for the Conservation Fund, wrote a letter to City Manager Jay Johnson telling of the group’s plans to donate the property to the city.
In it, Schock called the mural a “wonderful interpretive tool.”
“The proximity of the building to the Greyhound Station tells the story of how ‘hemmed in’ the Riders must have felt that day in May. If that wall was demolished, interpretation would be more difficult and less effective,” he wrote.
Schock said in the letter that money from the National Parks Foundation helped purchase the property.
The Star’s efforts to reach Schock were not immediately successful Wednesday.
Steve Taylor had owned the building before the Conservation Fund closed on the property about two weeks ago.
“I wanted to see them get it because of the mural and the part of history it does represent,” said Taylor, who co-owns Moore Printing just next door to the newly acquired property.
Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Department of Tourism, visited Anniston leaders involved with the monument on Friday of last week. He said the collaboration between local officials and those involved with the monument has put Anniston on track to distinguish itself among civil rights attractions.
“This will give enough critical mass to make Anniston a very strong overnight destination for American and international visitors alike,” he said.
Sentell said the state Tourism Department is drafting itineraries for civil rights history tourists that will take visitors to historic sites from Anniston to Memphis.
For more information about Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail, go to civilrightstrail.com
State grant pays for audio posts at Freedom Riders monument
Members of the Freedom Riders Committee are awaiting approval from Anniston and Calhoun County officials to install solar-powered posts that will play recordings of those involved with the bus burning.
“It’s just like having staff out there 24/7,” said committee member Pete Conroy.
Conroy said the cost of the posts were paid for by a $6,000 grant from the Alabama Historical Commission.
The committee hopes to install posts at the following locations:
- At the Freedom Riders National Monument on Gurnee Avenue. It will feature the voice of Freedom Rider Hank Thomas.
- At the Trailways mural at the corner of Noble Street and East Ninth Street. It will feature the voice of Freedom Rider Charles Person
- At the site of the bus burning on Alabama 202. It will feature the voice of Janie Forsyth McKinney, who became a part of local civil rights lore at the age of 12 when she offered water to Freedom Riders escaping the burning bus.