A second Fluhrer bread mural also was discovered adjacent to the black wrought-iron balcony on the opposite side of the building. - Julia Moore

Rogue River murals are a blast from the past

ROGUE RIVER — Emerging from a large section of the crumbling, burnt-orange stucco on the side of a downtown building, slices of white bread tumble enticingly down through the sage-green background toward a slightly damp and gray section of sidewalk.

When it comes to art, everything old is new again. And yesterday's hand-painted advertising is now appreciated as a historical mural.

At least one man hopes others share in his appreciation for what his renovation unearthed on one of the little town's largest downtown landmarks.

"I love the way it looks. I have a passion for old things," said Ward Warren, an antiques dealer who has renovated several buildings in Grants Pass.

Warren purchased the two-story, circa-1912 building at the corner of East Main and Broadway streets in Rogue River last August with plans to bring the big brick structure, which does double duty as a real estate office and antiques store, back to its glory.

But Warren had no idea what lay beneath the layers.

Above Fluhrer's Holsum loaf there is more script in shades of green and black. The lettering tells the tale of the mural's origins: Nick's Quality Market.

Richard "Nick" Niquette, a butcher by trade, purchased the old Gelvin's grocery shop and later renovated the "Old Brick Store." Niquette opened Nick's Market in 1952 in what had been a general merchandise and feed store, complete with watering trough and hitching post.

Warren said he's reviewed as many original photos of the brick-sided structure as he has been able to lay his hands on. There was already a sign of paint on the old walls that can be seen in a photo from the 1920s.

"Nick painted over it," Warren said. "He put his own advertising up."

The building has lived many lives. The upper story was once a theater and dance hall. It still has a hand-pulled elevator in the back of the building. The open elevator, with its thick ropes and pulley system still intact, is directly across from a pink, cast iron, claw-foot bathtub.

Warren speculates that, at some point, a siding salesman came through town and convinced one of the owners that the building's aged brick made it look tired and old.

"They convinced him to cover it up with stucco," he said. "My goal is to get it back to as close to original as possible."

Charlie Weaver, a longtime Rogue River resident and Realtor, wandered throughout the building and outside to view the lettering. Weaver reminisced about taking field trips to Medford to visit the Fluhrer bakery.

"That must have been in grade school," Weaver said.

In the early 2000s, the building was again for sale. California transplant Lauren Hill bought it and renovated the upstairs area into two apartments, said Theresa Ward.

Ward, also a Realtor and the current lessee of the building, bought it from Hill and sold it to Warren.

Ward always envisioned the building as a wonderful restaurant. Rooftop seating would offer glorious views of the Rogue Valley, she said.

"I always thought the downstairs would make a great wine cellar," Ward added.

Warren said he hasn't really thought past the renovation process, which can be costly and time-consuming. A second Fluhrer bread mural was also discovered adjacent to the black wrought-iron balcony on the opposite side of the building. And Warren isn't sure all of the plaster's secrets have yet been revealed.

"We could have another two to three more," he said.

There had been talk about putting a new mural on the northwest side of the building. But Warren said he plans to keep Niquette's advertising instead.

"I tend to be more of a purist. I'd rather have an original of anything," said Warren.

However many murals are discovered, Warren said he plans to preserve and protect them for future generations.

Warren said his renovation and rehabilitation experiences with Blue Moon Antiques and Collectibles and his other buildings in the historic section of Grants Pass helped create a chain reaction with other building owners. He is hoping his efforts in Rogue River, along with the city's ongoing beautification projects in the downtown core, will catch on with other owners.

"Times are tough," Warren said. "And time will tell."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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