PORTLAND, Maine — The iconic Greyhound Bus mural, which has marked both the station as well as the city’s downtown western entrance for more than half a century, is coming down.
Actually, it’s falling down, brick-by-brick.
That’s why Maine Medical Center, which owns the red and blue, story-high signage, is removing it. The bus station is now defunct and the hospital hopes to replace the outdated mural with something else appropriate for the neighborhood.
But whatever supplants the long-running dog logo will be temporary. Maine Health, the hospital’s parent organization, has unstated future plans for the whole block.
“This work is prompted by ongoing water intrusion problems with that wall, causing bricks to fall
on the adjacent lot, presenting a potential life-safety hazard,” the hospital said.
In October, the hospital put up fencing at the base of the wall at 940 Congress St., keeping cars and pedestrians away from the danger.
The two-story brick building houses the Pizza Villa restaurant. Maine Medical Center bought the property in 2018 and the adjacent bus station in 2020.
Phil Regios’ family first opened Pizza Villa in 1964. Regios said he’s not quite sure how long the mural has been there.
“I’m sure it is at least from the mid-1970s but it could predate that,” he said, “maybe even the 1960s.”
Even though the painted dog appears to be running on the side of Regios’ old building, overlooking the station, he said his family never actually owned the mural.
Maine Medical Center, which owns the old Greyhound Bus mural, said it will soon come down due to safety concerns. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
Instead, it was created on a one-brick-thick layer of building material left over from the former West End Hotel. The old railroad hotel directly abutted the pizza joint. When it was torn down, making way for the bus station, its east wall was left attached to the building next door.
“It’s peculiar but they left that layer behind when they took it down,” Regios said.
Thus, the Greyhound Mural was painted on what used to be the hotel’s inside wall.
“The bricks were not intended to be exposed to the elements, contributing to the failure,” the hospital said.
The prominent mural has long been an unofficial neighborhood landmark. Visible for at least a quarter mile as travelers approach St. John Street from outer Congress Street, it signals the start of downtown proper.
It’s so iconic, it’s part of the St. John Valley Street Neighborhood Association’s official logo. The association encompases blocks clustered around St. John and Valley Streets and includes the old station.
Neighborhood activist, and frequent hospital expansion critic, Moses Sabina said he will miss the mural.
“It’s difficult for all of us to swallow but obviously it needs to happen,” Sabina said.
Maine Medical Center has reached out to the neighborhood association, stating it wants to work with the organization in replacing the mural, after a layer of brick-supporting material is applied to the side of the building.
Sabina said he’s thankful for that and is 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 on what should go there.”
Sabina said he hopes whatever replaces the Greyhound logo will reflect the neighborhood’s transportation roots. In addition to the bus station, the fabled — and long-gone — Union Station train terminal used to stand directly across St. John Street.
Also nearby was the Green Lantern. Located on A Street, it was a 16-room boarding house catering to African Americans and was listed in the Green Book travel guide.
“Arrivals and travel are what I think of when I look at that building,” he said.
Whatever goes up will likely not stand as long as the running dog mural. The hospital will eventually replace the old building with new ones, though it won’t say when. For now, Maine Medical Center has filed plans with the city to house a food pantry and community policing station in the old terminal building.
The hospital is currently constructing a $532 million addition a few blocks away on Congress Street. It’s expected to be completed in 2024.
The hospital expects dismantling work to begin on the mural as soon as the city approves the appropriate permits.