Future of Freddy Adams’ mural

Artwork in memory of late Fishtown native to be preserved by real estate agency

A lasting memory: Betty Adams stands in front of the mural memorializing her late son, Freddy. LINDSEY NOLAN / STAR PHOTO

By Lindsey Nolen

Although it has been 24 years since Fishtown native Freddy Adams was brutally murdered in 1993 at the age of 16, his memory has been kept very much alive through a mural overlooking the basketball court at the Fishtown Recreation Center. Yet as the ever-changing Fishtown landscape continues to be gentrified, real estate agency GY Properties has proposed knocking down the wall on which the mural stands, with the promise of reinstallation.
The reason behind knocking down the wall on which the mural is painted stems from the agency’s plan to install a 71-unit apartment building next to the rec center; a project being referred to as “Wolff Court.” To achieve its architectural goals across the .6-acre site, demolition of a few existing structures, including the Freddy Adams mural wall, will be necessary.
Yet, recognizing the significance and meaning the mural holds in the immediate community, GY Properties has offered anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to either replace the mural or to install a new type of memorial.
“In order to develop our property, regrettably, we are forced to demolish the building adjacent to and which shares a common wall with the Freddy Adams mural,” Arthur Ruppin, vice president of finance at GY Properties, said. “After being approached by members of the community about the importance of the memory of Freddy Adams and the annual sports tournament in Freddie’s name celebrating his life are to the community, we offered to donate the required funds to replace the mural.”
Ruppin continued by stating that in his company’s goal to ensure that what makes this neighborhood appealing remains intact and that its residents benefit from the development, it suggested that prior to the demolition an artist be selected to photograph the mural so that it can be reproduced by the community utilizing the funds offered. Additionally, he hopes that this is the first step to develop a collaborative community-friendly revitalization of the property.
The Fishtown Advisory Council invited Adams’ mother, Betty, to its meeting on Tuesday, July 11, to discuss what she wishes to see done in replacement of the existing mural, which was completed in October 1993.
“A lot of people have a lot of thoughts [on what to do about the mural], but I prefer to hear from you,” FAC president Mary Anne Tempone told Betty. “The possibilities are endless because [the developers] committed a certain amount of money.”
During this meeting, Tempone asked Betty what she perceived to be a fit replacement, presenting the ideas to repaint the mural on another wall, installing a statue or fountain or planting a garden in Adams’ honor. Betty said she wished to see the mural repainted and in the same location, as overlooking the court best represents Adams and his love of sports. She also wants it to show her son in his Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School uniform from his graduation pictures, which he received days before his death.
“I still would like the mural to be [on the same wall] because that’s where all the kids and teens hang out, and it reminds them of why it’s there,” Betty, who says she often walks by the mural, said.
Additionally, she noted, while the new mural does not have to be identical or created by the man who had painted the original, Ted Clarke, she wishes to see the many characteristics that embodied Adams personality recreated in its replacement. These representations of his character on the original mural, which has needed to be retouched twice over the years due to graffiti, include sports equipment and team logos, playing cards, hair clippers, a North Catholic logo, a peace sign and a shamrock with his nickname, “Slim,” written above it.
“Everything on [the mural] is a symbol of what Freddy is about,” Betty, who lives around the corner on Flora Street, said. “It was sad when I heard they were going to knock it down, but I feel better knowing that it’s going back up.”
Above all, Betty stressed that carrying her son’s mural into the future is important because of the message it continues to share with the kids who play beneath it day in and day out. In remembering and reflecting upon what happened to Adams, she hopes that it will prevent others from experiencing a similar fate.
“I’m glad [the FAC] gave me the opportunity to come talk about it,” Betty said. “I know all the kids [who used to know Freddy] are all 40 now, but the younger kids still know what it’s about and what happened.”
Leaving the meeting, Betty entered the Fishtown Recreation Center’s basketball court and approached the mural when a little boy sitting on a basketball shouted over, “Hey, Bet,” to which she smiled. Right there, the tight-knit community element of the rec center, Betty’s late-son’s mural and all that they both stand for remained as evident and relevant as ever.