The mural at the corner of Whelpton Street and Drouillard Road depicts an iconic scene in Ford City history.
But the massive art piece has been removed — and is safely in storage, for now — as the building underneath gets a much-needed renovation and a new home is found for the art.
"It's a little bit of a sad thing to see the mural go, but it's all in good faith that … this whole building is going to be restored back to what it was in its glory days," said Michael DiFazio, who owns the building.
Michael DiFazio owns the building at the corner of Drouillard Road and Whelpton Street. The mural that used to be located on the side of the building had to be relocated to make way for a much-needed renovation, but DiFazio said the mural is in intact and safely stored for the time being. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC )
The mural by Steven Johnson depicts the exodus of Ford workers from the nearby plant and was one of many created in 2000 as part of a grant program with the City of Windsor to beautify the neighbourhood.
DiFazio, owner of Michael DiFazio Reclaim Artistry and a member of the Ford City BIA, said he's working with an architect to restore the building. The mural had to come down, he says, to expose the bricked-up windows that will be restored, along with the brickwork underneath.
When the mural was put up, DiFazio said Ford City was a very different community than it is today.
"When these buildings get renovated, it actually makes a usable space for business or for people to live again, just like it used to be back in the day," he said.
"So the murals coming down exposing all the boarded up mess that we were trying to hide in the first place is a success in my opinion."
City to consult public on future location of mural
The City of Windsor currently has custody of the mural as its owner, and will be undertaking public consultation in the coming months to determine where to relocate it, said Michelle Staadegaard, manager of culture for the City of Windsor.
The mural is in good shape and is being stored until it finds its permanent home," she added.
"Murals, public art, these are things that tell the story of our community, tell the history of our community to tell what had happened or what is happening in the community," Staadegaard said. "They're very important to have … to tell the story of the community."
The mural measures about 11 metres by three metres, and is painted on about seven large aluminum panels.
Ideally the mural will continue to be located in Ford City, DiFazio said, perhaps along the fence at the end of the Whelpton Street that borders the Ford plant — a callback to how autoworkers used to stream up the street at the ends of their shifts.
An old business sign was found under the Ford City mural at Whelpton and Drouillard. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)
He says he hopes the mural doesn't go too far from home.
"Restoring the building, putting the glass back where the glass used to be, repairing the brick and just letting the building kind of speak for itself the way it used to back in the day," he said.
"And doing the renovation proper so that this is something that could be long lasting here for the neighbourhood and for the entire city to enjoy."
Mural a callback to Ford City history
Shane Potvin, chair of the Ford City BIA, said the mural speaks to the history of Ford City when it was "booming."
"This is why this whole neighbourhood was booming at the time, because they would spill out of that factory and go to the bars and restaurants and tobacconists all kind of on at this corner."
Working across the street from the mural, Potvin said he's looked at it every day for the past six years.
"I have a strong connection to it, and a lot of people have connections to those murals," he said, noting he got questions about where the mural went "literally an hour" after it came down.
"I think people see these as something that did beautify the neighbourhood when it needed it the most."