The Appalachian Mural Trail recently announced its two newest murals, one of them in nearby Marshall. The scene, painted on the famous Marshall Depot on Main Street, Madison County, depicts five locals who were instrumental in saving the venue from destruction and establishing it as the lively music venue and community stage it is today. The mural was designed by Kate Gower and painted by Katie Lillard, both them Marshall residents.
The figures shown are Forrest Jarrett, who helped the Town of Marshall lease The Depot from Norfolk Southern Railroad for $1; AJ Bridges, who famously graced the dance floor weekly for decades and is lovingly said to have twirled more women than Fred Astaire; the late Everett “The Flower Man” Barnett, for whom the Depot’s garden is named; late musician Jerry Adams, the innovative banjo player who long graced the Depot stage; and Betty Pressley, who runs the weekly cakewalks.
Doreyl Ammons Cain, the project’s director and founder and a well-known regional storyteller from Tuckasegee in Jackson County, notes that this mural “tells the story of a vibrant community dedicated to its musical heritage.” The Appalachian Mural Trail traces the mountain landscape of North Carolina and Virginia, using an interactive website, muraltrail.com, to guide visitors to the murals. Ben Long’s frescoes at Holy Trinity and St. Mary’s churches and a growing number of New Deal/WPA-themed murals are spotlighted along the trail.
The goal is “to draw people off the [Blue Ridge] Parkway and pull them down into the small mountain towns so they can see them — visit the shops, maybe even spend the night,” says Cain. “Not only does it help the economy, but it enlightens visitors about who we are.” In addition to the histories of each mural, the trail provides visitors with directions and trip planning.
The Marshall Depot, open every Friday night with five local bands onstage, is also on the Blue Ridge Music Trail (blueridgemusicnc.com). For more about the Appalachian Mural Trail, see muraltrail.com.