It’s faded and pockmarked by weather and time, but the sprinting Greyhound mural outside the former bus station at Congress and St. John streets is still beautiful to Caroline Losneck.

The red-and-blue logo painted on brick reminds Losneck of bus trips she took back in the early 2000s, when she and a friend would travel from Portland to New York City for 24-hour getaways, taking advantage of Greyhound’s “super cheap” companion fares.

Detail of the Greyhound mural on Congress Street in Portland, which is coming down soon to preserve the building and the safety of passersby. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“We’d walk and visit Chinatown, and then buy some Twizzlers and Reese’s for the bus ride back to Portland,” Losneck recalled. “Those trips cemented our friendship and my love for New York City. She lives in California now, but we always talk about those epic trips on the bus.”

Losneck, a documentarian, radio producer and filmmaker, has already begun to mourn the loss of the beloved mural, which is painted on a building beside the bus station. The mural is set to be removed in “the near future” as part of a structural repair project planned by Maine Medical Center and its parent company, MaineHealth, which owns the bus station and the building next door.

“The mural is a portal into the personal and collective memories of the neighborhood, the city and people across Maine,” said Losneck, who lives in the neighborhood. “It’s an open invitation for people to recall their own experiences. There’s a unique spirit to that space in an otherwise bleak, car-oriented landscape.”

Losneck isn’t alone in her longing. Her post on Twitter last week, with a photo of her standing in front of the sprawling Greyhound sign, drew comments from about 20 other fans who wish the mural wasn’t destined to be destroyed.

“This is my favorite wall in Portland and it’s going away,” Losneck wrote, “so here I am on a Sunday in front of it.”

“Sad,” responded @where_rain. “I’ve driven or picked up many friends from that bus station.”

“Oh, damn, didn’t know that,” wrote @DylanLJMartin. “End of an era.”

Some recalled the previous loss of Union Station, a towered granite edifice that once stood on the other side of St. John Street. It was torn down in 1961 and eventually replaced by a strip mall. Public outcry over the demise of the train station triggered the historic preservation movement in Maine.

“Well, they tore down that magnificent old train station,” wrote @SlingbladeWilly, “so this is not a surprise.”

Others attributed the mural’s pending removal to the continuing gentrification of Maine’s largest city, where real estate and rental prices have become prohibitive for many people.

“(Expletive) nouveau Portland,” wrote @annielauaviles. “Truly miss the days before Whole Foods came to town.”

Kyle Randall, a Portland artist who captured the intersection in an illustration two years ago, sees the mural as a last vestige of Portland’s less-polished past.

“The whole Greyhound station is emblematic of a Portland that doesn’t exist anymore,” Randall said. “It’s one of the last grungy parts remaining in the city. I’ve walked or biked that intersection a thousand times and it’s kind of unique. You get this panoramic view of the city with the hospital on the hill and the Greyhound mural right in the middle of it.”

Portland artist Kyle Randall created this illustration of the congested intersection at Congress and St. John streets two years ago. The Greyhound bus station and mural are last vestiges of the city’s grungier past, he said. Courtesy of Kyle Randall

Greyhound still offers round trips from Portland to the Big Apple for $62, but tickets must be purchased online or at a full-service terminal, and the bus now stops at a park-and-ride lot at 274 Marginal Way.

MaineHealth bought the former Greyhound station at 950 Congress St. in April 2020 for $1.4 million, according to city tax records. Built in 1961, the station sits at the base of a hill that rises to the city’s West End neighborhood and is dominated by the buildings and parking garages of Maine Medical Center.

The mural is on the west side of the brick building at 940-942 Congress St., which includes three apartments and Pizza Villa, another neighborhood landmark. MMC Realty Corp., an affiliate of Maine Medical Center, bought the property in 2019 for $1.2 million from TPA Associates, tax records show.

The Greyhound mural overlooks the paved parking area and blue canopy in front the former bus station, at a busy commercial intersection that carries about 32,000 vehicles daily. For decades, the mural has greeted motorists traveling from outer Congress Street, passing beneath Interstate 295 and heading downtown. In a matter of weeks, it will be gone.

The Greyhound mural on Congress Street in Portland on Friday. For decades, the mural has greeted motorists traveling from outer Congress Street, passing beneath Interstate 295 and heading downtown. In a matter of weeks, it will be gone. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

A recent engineering study found that the mural wall originally was constructed to be an interior wall, before an adjacent building was demolished, said Matt Wickenheiser, a Maine Med spokesperson.

The mural wall wasn’t intended to be exposed to the elements, so water has infiltrated the building and deteriorated the bricks and mortar, Wickenheiser said. The mural itself contributed to the structural failure, because the paint helped to trap moisture in the wall. Some bricks and mortar have fallen to the ground, prompting Maine Med to block public access to the area.

“Unfortunately, water intrusion has damaged the wall, creating a life-safety hazard,” Wickenheiser said. “So the brick wall needs to be removed as soon as possible.”

Maine Med has applied for city permits to rebuild the wall and cover it with a stucco-like material in a neutral color. Recognizing that many people will miss the Greyhound mural, hospital officials plan to collaborate with the St. John Valley Neighborhood Association to create a new mural or design for the repaired wall.

But another mural likely won’t satisfy people like Lisa Willey, who lives in Casco and loves the painted Greyhound sign.

Willey, 54, has seen the mural more often in recent months while being treated at Maine Med for an extended illness that turned out to be lymphoma. Chemo treatments are going well and the lymphoma is in retreat. Married with three children and one grandchild, Willey laughs a little when talking about the mural, as if her appreciation for a massive dog logo might be a bit silly, but it’s not.

She was 12 years old the first time she rode the bus alone from Portland north to visit her grandparents’ dairy farm in Canaan, near Skowhegan. It was 1979 and her mom dropped her off at the bus station. She remembers approaching the mural and being filled with anticipation. She had dreams of exploring the world, which she would fulfill as an adult, and she was more than ready to get started.

“That Greyhound mural symbolized everything about travel to me,” said Willey, who is a science educator. “It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done and when I see that mural today, I have all of these good memories that come flooding back. I know things change, but the idea of not seeing that mural when I come into town really bothers me.”

Correction: This story was updated at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2021, to remove an erroneous property sale transaction involving the mural.


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