Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council in awarding $5,000 grants to 12 selected communities through a competitive process to fund projects focused on strengthening heritage and cultural tourism in rural Missouri. The grant helped each community implement a project and market itself to prospective visitors. These projects added heritage tourism to the economies in each community through a range of projects from murals to walking tours to new monuments and building plaques that all highlight each respective community’s history for residents and visitors. One of the Marketing Heritage and Cultural Tourism grant was awarded to Charleston Revitalization Movement (CHARM) in March of 2022 with the project completed in September of 2022.
Charleston Revitalization Movement (CHARM) is a newer Main Street community in the Community Empowerment Grant program but their history and local significance runs deep. From being the lifelong residence of the 46th Governor of Missouri, Warren E. Hearnes, who was the first person in Missouri history to serve in all three branches of the state government to their high school basketball team’s, the Bluejay, twelve state championship titles, the community has a variety of heritage and history to celebrate. It is this deep, rich history that would be on display with a 24’ mural in a welcoming pocket park following the transformation of an overgrown vacant lot left after a building was removed.
Charleston Revitalization Movement’s (CHARM) overall project is broken up into two phases with phase one being the mural and intial development of the pocket park. During phase one, the first step was to address the condition of the space for the pocket park by removing a tree and overgrown brush and poison ivy.
After clearing the lot, the concrete pad of the old building was exposed allowing for CHARM to preserve it with safety modifications for its new use. As the work was being done on this project CHARM said,
“On more than one occasion, visitors to the area stopped by to see what was taking place as well as offer encouraging words of how much they enjoy visiting our town and how beautiful the architecture and the atmosphere is.”
Next, a 10’ concrete ramp was installed for ADA accessibility and benches placed for locals and visitors to enjoy. The mural was then installed in the park. It is a digitized collage of artwork from three local artist that is printed on weatherproof materials depicting the Mississippi County Courthouse surrounded by beautiful dogwoods and azaleas, the Old Train Depot, a farming scene, a tribute to Charleston High School’s Bluejay Basketball team, and a portrait of Governor Warren E. Hearnes. Lastly, CHARM brought in planters and botanicals to spruce up and soften the space with nature and greenery.
The Marketing Heritage and Cultural Tourism grant has mobilized Charleston Revitalization Movement (CHARM) into action to address a void in their community and by doing so created the perfect environment for people to come together as CHARM wrote in their final report,
“This project has allowed local organizations and city leaders to join forces for the common good of the community. Local business owners have pitched in and contributed in-kind donations of their employee’s labor to help get the larger tasks completed. The community is pulling together and healing from the impact of the past few years.”
With the collaboration between CHARM board members and volunteers as well as Charleston community members in transforming the overgrown property, this space will be able to be used by the community for years to come. The excitement from the development of this space in Charleston has created a buzz for the locals and has sparked excitement in the community resulting in “people signing up to get involved in not only this project but future projects as well.”
Now that phase one has been completed, Charleston Revitalization Movement (CHARM) is waiting for the winter season to pass before moving forward with phase two which will include an elaborate selection of botanicals planted for year-round enjoyment. They also planned to bring additional enhancements to the pocket park in the spring of 2023 for the annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival in April. CHARM had heard many visitors express that they plan to return to see the finished project. Now that the pocket park and mural are ready to greet visitors, CHARM will share their story online to bring back visitors who saw this project in the works as well as new visitors to see what is unique and special about this town and its Main Street.
Missouri Main Street Connection awarded the Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism Grants in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act.