Many decades ago George Johnston started a tradition that his son Trey is now preserving. The ‘War Eagle’ wall located next to J&M Bookstore has become the site of Instagram pictures, graduation photo shoots and general ‘Auburn’ love.
In the 60’s, George decided the wall needed painting, despite the fact that neither he, nor J&M Bookstore, owned that wall.
The wall is owned by Lamar Ware of Ware Jewelers. Trey said that George decided to act on an “do it now and ask forgiveness later” attitude and painted the wall to better represent the Auburn community.
The wall did not always look as it does now, with the iconic orange and blue ‘War Eagle’ and the other side of the fence reading ‘Go Tigers’. Originally one side of the fence said ‘War’ and the other ‘Eagle’.
A few years later, however, it was changed to what it is now.
“My dad’s spirit was just ‘Hey this is Auburn, baby’ and ‘War Eagle’,” Trey said. “And ‘Better know where you are’.”
This wall is a part of Auburn’s downtown charm and history and Trey is working to preserve that.
Located next to J&M Bookstore is a development that is set to become a new five-story student housing complex. Trey said the contractor understood that this wall is special to the people of Auburn.
“I think the ‘War Eagle’ wall is one of the most iconic and most Auburn parts of Auburn and so I think it’s so important that we have that and people are able to experience it,” said Megan Ondrizek, a junior at Auburn. “Because I mean, I felt like that is what made it really homie downtown.”
The wall will be covered and a fence has already been erected to help protect the integrity of the wall during the construction.
The ‘Go Tiger’s portion of the wall may be torn down, Trey said, but it will be re-erected later.
While the ‘War Eagle’ wall will be hopefully unharmed, it will be out of the reach of fans, however. When Trey realized that no-one would be able to use the wall, he decided to do something about it.
“I’ve already had one of my little employees graduating this fall, ‘Well Mr. Johnston, that’s going to be covered up, that’s where I want to take my pictures.’ I mean, that’s what I’m talking about. So I went ‘Oo, maybe I better do something in the alleyway.’”
The alley located between J&M and Ware Jewelers will become the site of a duplicate ‘War Eagle’ wall that fans and locals can admire and take pictures in front of while the original is un-available.
Trey is even having the same company that painted the original wall return to paint the duplicate.
“It’s important to maintain the original atmosphere with all these buildings going up, with all the construction, it can feel kind of overwhelming as a student to walk around and see - you can’t even recognize what Auburn looked like four years ago,” said Katie Sinclair, senior at Auburn. “So I think even if it’s a replacement wall, it’s important for everyone to have.”