Charles Morales used spray paint to express his message of protest, scrawling “Don’t Shop Mansfield,” “Poor City Services” and “Wong Town” on his own historic buildings.
“Yeah, I done it,” said Morales, who owns Farr Best Theater and the J.H. Harrison house. “I’m not going to promote Mansfield if they aren’t going to help me.”
Morales said he plans to close the theater and use it and the Harrison house for storage. He said he doesn’t appreciate the city’s backing construction of The LOT amphitheater near the 153-seat Farr Best Theater at 109 N. Main St.
“A block down the street, they’re putting in a deal where they’re doing the same thing I am,” he said. “I don’t particularly like that they’re using tax money to do that. I’m not going to compete against the city. I’m going to lock the theater door.”
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The graffiti was painted on the theater three times May 26-27. Each time, Discover Historic Mansfield, which leases the building, had the messages painted over. The red spray paint appeared on the front of the Harrison house May 29.
The city broke ground on the amphitheater at 110 S. Main St. in May. The new venue, which will have lawn seating for up to 2,000 people, is set to open Oct. 10 on 2 acres owned by the city. A nonprofit is trying to raise $350,000 to build the amphitheater, which will then be owned by the city.
Morales is also upset about a driveway at a duplex that he owns on Kimball Street that the city narrowed when the street was remodeled, he said.
Steve Cosio, president of Discover Historic Mansfield, said he will be disappointed if Morales closes the 98-year-old theater.
The group signed a $1,000-a-month lease for the theater with Morales’ daughter, Rhonda Meadows, in June 2014 that runs until Oct. 31. It remodeled the theater for the first couple of months, then began hosting concerts.
“If it is the intent of Mr. Morales to close the theater at the end of the lease, it would be very sad for a historic business to fall two years short of its 100th anniversary,” Cosio said.
City Planning Director Felix Wong is treasurer for Discover Historic Mansfield and one of the targets of Morales’ graffiti.
“Felix Wong and his bunch cleaned it up and remodeled it,” Morales said. “They tore out all the antique light fixtures and took down all the Farr Best posters. Felix Wong is running this town.”
Wong said he didn’t mind the message.
“Wong Town doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re making me the mayor.”
Mayor David Cook saw the graffiti on the 99-year-old Harrison house at 404 E. Broad St., across from his office, and knew who was probably behind it.
“I am disappointed in the damage to the facility and the content of the message,” Cook said. “I put two and two together, and it related to the same individual. I reached out to him and had a long conversation. I think he’s frustrated with the city about a few things.”
Cook said he wants to show Morales that the “Farr Best is a big part of the revitalization of downtown Mansfield.”
Morales broke no laws, Mansfield police spokesman Thad Penkala said.
Morales quarreled with the city over code enforcement at his Kimball Street duplex in 2005 and 2006, and he threatened to demolish the Harrison house and the theater.
He bought the Farr Best Theater in September 2004 when Main Street Theater was hosting live productions. The group moved out in 2007, and Morales’ daughter and son-in-law, Rhonda and David Meadows, took over and began hosting live music shows.
Morales bought the J.H. Harrison house in August 2002 from the city, which had used it as a senior center.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451