34th Street Wall

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The 34th Street Wall is a 1,120-foot-long retaining wall along SW 34th Street in Gainesville, Florida. The wall, which dates back to 1979, was originally built by the Florida Department of Transportation to prevent erosion of a hill on the nearby University of Florida golf course when 34th Street was widened from two lanes to four.

The wall itself is most notable for being covered with layers of graffiti, up to as many as 250 layers of paint thick in some areas.[1] Messages painted on the wall have included marriage proposals, birthday wishes, graduation announcements, celebration of athletic victories, activist statements, public awareness, promotions, and tributes. In 2006, Musician and Gainesville native Tom Petty returned to the city for a concert and he was welcomed with a message painted on the wall. Petty was presented with a photo of this section of the wall along with the Gainesville key to the city during the visit.[2] As of 2021, the wall is still in use and the messages change day-to-day. Although most of the graffiti on the wall is done by students and members of the community, there is occasional tagging and professional art as well.[3]

When the city last resurfaced 34th Street and widened the bicycle lanes, this originally required removing part of the wall. Instead, officials opted to narrow the road median, leaving the wall intact.

Legal status[edit]

The wall is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation. Painting government-owned property generally falls under vandalism or criminal mischief, but neither the Alachua County Sheriff's Office nor the Gainesville Police Department have ever charged anyone for painting on the wall.[4] In the past, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to prevent graffiti on the wall, including painting the wall white and the use of graffiti resistant coating, but in more recent years, the wall has been accepted as a Gainesville landmark and is considered a "community bulletin board".

Both the Gainesville Police Department and Alachua County Sheriff have occasionally helped to maintain the wall, such as by ensuring that the Danny Rolling victims' memorial was left intact until 2000, when the UF Interfraternity Council took over. In addition, waste containers are provided to allow for proper disposal of used paint supplies.

Memorials[edit]

The Rolling victim memorial in May 2009
Gainesville, Florida Memorial

One of the more notable sections on the wall is a tribute to the victims of the Danny Rolling murders. The memorial lists the names of the five students who were killed, and was first painted in 1990 using black, red, and white paint by Adam Byrn Tritt. Although it has been painted over or defaced several times, it is always repaired quickly, and the panel is regularly touched up as most of the wall around it changes continuously. At the memorial's 20 year anniversary, a plaque was added to the panel which reads "In remembrance of those individuals who lost their lives in 1990: Sonja Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules, Manuel Taboada. You will never be forgotten."[5]

Hours after musician and Gainesville native Tom Petty died on October 3, 2017, a large memorial panel appeared beside that of Rolling's victims. Petty's memorial includes the messages "Gainesville's No. 1 Son" and "Thanks, Tommy" along with the logo of his band, the Heartbreakers. The memorial has been kept "clean" by local and visiting members of the Facebook group Tom Petty Nation.[6][7]

Gallery[edit]

The wall in April 2009

References[edit]

  1. ^ UF Class of 2016 F Book
  2. ^ Homegrown legend receives key to the city, Gainesville SunSeptember 22, 2006
  3. ^ "Meet the Gainesville Graffiti Wall". Events in Gainesville and What's Good in Alachua County, FL. 2018-06-29. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  4. ^ Police find it hard to enforce graffiti laws The Independent Florida Alligator, July 29, 2010
  5. ^ Crabbe, Nathan (August 22, 2010). "Memories of student murders fade for some, not all". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  6. ^ Caplan, Andrew (3 October 2017). "Petty gets tribute panel on 34th Street mural". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  7. ^ Caplan, Andrew (January 5, 2018). "Memorial to Tom Petty on 34th Street defaced". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 11 March 2019.

External links[edit]

  • Messages on the Wall - A site maintained by the University of Florida Digital Libraries cataloging many of the messages painted on the wall

Coordinates: 29°38′52″N 82°22′20″W / 29.6477°N 82.3722°W / 29.6477; -82.3722