Brick people: Red Bank High School alumni try to save landmark mosaic

Brick people: Red Bank High School alumni try to save landmark mosaic

July 3rd, 2013 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

Brick sculptures of students adorn the walls outside of the old Red Bank High School auditorium today in Red Bank, Tenn. The school is being torn down, but officials are considering ways to save the sculptures.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

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They're simple enough: white blocks that make up the rudimentary shapes of two students.

But to Red Bank High School alumni and community members, the brick mosaic atop the Dayton Boulevard school is a piece of local history.

Thanks to a last-ditch effort, the iconic figures may be the only piece to survive the impending destruction of the Red Bank Middle School building, which was formerly the community's high school. The crumbling building, now more than 70 years old, will be demolished in a few weeks and replaced with a new middle school behind the current high school building on Morrison Springs Road.

Supporters are trying to raise $8,000 to safely remove the bricks before the wrecking ball hits. But they've got only about two weeks to get the job done. Still, community members are convinced it can happen.

"I was really surprised," said contractor Marty Green. "But I've been contacted by a lot of people that wanted to save it and move it. It's just really important to them to have that original. I could have taken new stuff and re-created it and nobody would have known the difference. And it would have saved a lot of money. But they want the brick out of that building."

Green, along with his brother Matt, will take apart the inlay piece by piece. Both are Red Bank graduates. Marty Green said it will take a four-man crew about four days to cut out the bricks -- individually -- from the mortar with a diamond-edged saw.

In all, he said it's about a $15,000 project. But they're only asking community members to chip in about $8,000 for supplies and the cost of moving the brick.

So, what exactly makes the brick work so special?

"Because it's always been there," said Mike Congdon, a 1983 Red Bank graduate. "Or it seems like it's always been there."

And in Red Bank, the images have served as a landmark along the city's main drag.

"If you're telling people how to get somewhere in Red Bank, you tell people, 'You'll see the high school on Dayton Boulevard. And you'll know you're passing the high school by the white man and woman sculpture," Congdon said.

Congdon says organizers hope to put the mosaic back together somewhere on the high school campus.

By Tuesday afternoon, supporters had raised almost $1,000 for the project, said Sharmon Hardin, another organizer of the effort. Many view the brick inlay as one last piece of their high school experience.

"We want to save that because that was our high school. It means something to us. Our time in high school was important," Hardin said. "This is the iconic piece that we got permission to hold onto."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at 423-757-6249 or khardy@timesfreepress.com.