Construction is a common sight in downtown Auburn. Now it has taken over the historic War Eagle wall near J&M Bookstore as the Whatley Building, a five-story mixed-use development, is being built.
The wall has been covered up, but is being supported and protected during the construction process.
Ware Jewelers owns the wall, which has been standing since the early 1960s. J&M Bookstore painted the wall in 1968, and it has been an Auburn icon ever since.
“George Johnston, who owned J&M Bookstore, had [the wall] painted even though he didn’t own it,” said Ben Duncan, operations manager at J&M Bookstore. “He did the old ‘I’ll ask for forgiveness, not permission.’ He wanted to clean up the look on this side of College Street.”
A corner of the new development will be touching the wall. The wall will be kept as close to the original as possible, but it may need to be touched up on the “Go Tigers” side.
“Initially, it said ‘War’ on one side and ‘Eagle’ on the other,” Duncan said. “In the early 80s was when it was painted ‘War Eagle’ on one side and ‘Go Tigers’ on the other.”
During the construction process, J&M Bookstore decided to supply the community with a temporary War Eagle wall. It will match the original covered-up wall and will be in the alleyway between J&M Bookstore and Ware Jewelers.
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J&M Bookstore, Ware Jewelers and Whatley Building stakeholders are working together to preserve the original wall throughout the building’s construction.
“[The temporary wall will last] throughout football season, and especially graduation tends to be when people take the most amount of pictures,” Duncan said. “We definitely want to get it done before then, but we’re hoping to get it in the next couple of weeks.”
J&M Bookstore is planning on working with the company that originally painted the War Eagle wall to paint the temporary wall.
The temporary wall will likely be painted over once the original wall is uncovered, Duncan said.
With construction blocking the wall from view, students must adjust to the different logistics and general feel of downtown.
“Walking down the street is an interference getting to work, parking is a nightmare and the aesthetic of the wall is being obstructed,” said Savannah Bonner, employee of J&M Bookstore and an Auburn student. “It’s kind of a downer when you walk in front of Samford and you can’t see such an iconic wall.”
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