RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — An altar dedicated to television legend Mr. Rogers is displayed in Richmond, Virginia's Museum District.
Visitors pay homage to St. Fred The Neighborly in the most unlikely of places — an old phone booth.
"It has been turned into a shrine,” said Carter Blough. “Be the person Mr. Rogers knew you could be. And you could light a candle should you wish.”
Blough said the payphone disappeared years ago. The site morphed into a magnet for stickers and artwork since.
No one knows for sure when the alter to the public television icon popped up nor who is responsible.
“When I see this I thank God for artists,” said Sam Davis. “I think the using of the phone booth is a great recycling of the old phone booth.”
The original drawing accompanied by trinkets is a big hit with Davis.
“I’ve never noticed the art before. It was not until St. Fred was pictured here that I noticed this and now I will come all of the time to see it,” he said.
Josh Gunn passes the booth every day. He hopes the mystery creator steps out of the shadows to take a bow.
“Never seen the artist. Never seen a sticker get put up. Never seen anything get put into it. Nothing,” he said. “It’s fun to be a surprise, but it is kind of like but you also want to thank people that add a little joy to people’s lives.”
During his decades-long run, Fred Rogers was defined by his calming presence.
Abu Kahn lives a few doors down and can’t think of a more perfect patron saint for his slice of the city.
“The whole show was about being your friendly neighbor. And in turn, I think I grew up a friendly person and a friendly neighbor to the people around me,” said Abu. “Easily it has become our favorite piece of the neighborhood for me and my roommate. I got super excited when I saw this. I think he protects the neighborhood in some way.”
Patty Carr admires the artwork, but calls the shrine a stark reminder of the passage of so much time.
“It is extremely very creative,” she said. “But I’m sad to say that the correlation to this payphone not being in use and my age and Mr. Rogers is kind of a little sad.”
The last original Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood show aired in 2001. The luminary passed away two years later at the age of 73. But in many ways, Mr. Rogers still inspires.
Gunn said the soothing, sweater-wearing soul is needed now more than ever.
“I think even the younger generation has a clue who it is. I don’t think you need to be in your 40s or 50s to know Mr. Rogers and the impact he had,” he said. “As things get outdated I think that one thing that doesn’t get outdated is the idea that we need kindness.”
This story was originally reported by Greg McQuade on wtvr.com.
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