Portland’s iconic dog mural set for removal

PORTLAND, Maine – The iconic Greyhound Bus mural, which has marked both the train station and the downtown city’s west entrance for more than half a century, is coming down.

In fact, it falls stone by stone.

Because of this, the Maine Medical Center, which owns the red-and-blue, floor-to-ceiling signage, is removing them. The bus station is now shut down and the hospital is hoping to replace the outdated mural with something else that is suitable for the neighborhood.

But whatever replaces the long-standing dog logo will only be temporary. Maine Health, the hospital’s parent organization, has no future plans for the entire block yet.

The afternoon sun illuminates the fading mural of the Greyhound Bus Terminal on the corner of St. John and Congress Streets in Portland on Saturday, November 27, 2021. The Maine Medical Center, which owns the mural, said it would shut down soon for safety reasons. Photo credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

“This work is triggered by ongoing problems with water ingress on this wall, causing bricks to fall

on the adjacent property, which is a potential danger to life, “said the hospital.

In October, the hospital put up fences at the foot of the wall at 940 Congress Street to keep cars and pedestrians out of the danger.

The two-story brick building houses the Pizza Villa restaurant. The Maine Medical Center purchased the property in 2018 and the adjacent bus terminal in 2020.

Phil Regios’ family first opened Pizza Villa in 1964. Regios said he’s not entirely sure how long the mural has been there.

“I’m sure it’s at least the mid-1970s, but it could be older,” he said, “maybe even the 1960s.”

Although the painted dog appears to be walking on the side of the old Regios building facing the train station, he said the mural never belonged to his family.

The Maine Medical Center, which owns the old Greyhound Bus mural, said it would shut down soon for safety reasons. Photo credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Instead, it was built on a brick-thick layer of building material left over from the former West End Hotel. The old railway hotel was directly adjacent to the pizzeria. When it was demolished to make way for the bus station, its east wall remained attached to the neighboring building.

“It’s weird, but they left that layer behind when they took it down,” Regios said.

The Greyhound Mural was painted on the former inner wall of the hotel.

“The bricks shouldn’t be exposed to the elements, which will contribute to failure,” said the hospital.

The prominent mural has long been an unofficial landmark of the neighborhood. It is visible at least a quarter of a mile as travelers approach St. John Street from outer Congress Street, and signals the beginning of the actual downtown area.

It’s so iconic that it’s part of the official logo of the St. John Valley Street Neighborhood Association. The association includes blocks grouped around St. John and Valley Streets and includes the old train station.

Neighborhood activist and frequent critic of the hospital expansion, Moses Sabina, said he will miss the mural.

“It’s hard for all of us to swallow, but of course it has to happen,” said Sabina.

The Maine Medical Center has reached out to the neighborhood association and said it wants to work with the organization to replace the mural after a layer of brick material is applied to the side of the building.

Sabina said he was grateful for that and was looking forward to being part of the process.

“This is a chance to work together,” he said, “and maybe this article can be an advertisement for ideas of what should go there.”

The iconic mural of the Greyhound bus terminal is reflected in a puddle in Portland on Saturday, November 27, 2021. The Maine Medical Center, which owns the mural, said it would shut down soon for safety reasons. Photo credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Sabina said he hopes anything that replaces the Greyhound logo reflects the neighborhood’s transportation roots. Next to the bus station was the legendary – and long-gone – Union Station train station directly across from St. John Street.

Also nearby was the Green Lantern. Located on A Street, it was a 16-room African American guesthouse and was featured in the Green Book’s travel guide.

“When I look at this building, I think of arrivals and travel,” he said.

Whatever goes to the top probably won’t last as long as the walking dog mural. The hospital will eventually replace the old building with a new one, but it won’t say when. For now, the Maine Medical Center has submitted plans to the city to house a pantry and a community police station in the old terminal building.

The hospital is currently building a $ 532 million annex a few blocks away on Congress Street. It should be completed in 2024.

The hospital expects to begin dismantling the mural as soon as the city approves the relevant permits.