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All signs point to Canton’s continuing renewal

New street signs will soon come to Canton, courtesy of the Cruso Endowment. Town of Canton photos New street signs will soon come to Canton, courtesy of the Cruso Endowment. Town of Canton photos

Another aesthetic improvement to Canton’s emerging downtown business district — rundown and dilapidated for years, until recently — will soon welcome residents and visitors alike with a sense of style befitting the mountain mill town’s historic character. 

“There’s a lot of things we’d love to do in Canton, but we are on a very tight budget,” said Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers. “The Cruso Endowment has offered to pay for several historic signs that will be installed in our downtown district.”

Back in March 2019, Canton attorney Pat Smathers, Zeb’s father and also former mayor of Canton, announced he’d been called up on to administer a substantial gift by the estate of Haywood County natives David and Irene Smathers. 

The Cruso Endowment began with a $2 million nest egg, and for tax purposes must spend around $100,000 a year despite the goal of maintaining and growing the principal in perpetuity.  David and Irene stipulated that their gift be used to help the poor, to build churches, to augment recreational facilities and to contribute to the overall beautification of the town of Canton. 

The new signs fulfill the beautification aspect of the spending guidelines, and as with other Cruso Endowment spending, they require no match from the town so there’s absolutely no taxpayer cost for the upgrade. 

“They will replace some signs that are old, just your typical street signs,” Mayor Zeb Smathers said. “These [new] signs look better. As we’ve been able to grow and our downtown has come alive, we’ve not strayed from our historic roots of being a paper town, and these signs are what you would see in a lot of historic towns.”

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During a Feb. 11 meeting, Assistant Town Manager Nick Scheuer presented the Canton Board of Aldermen/women with several options for the signs. 

Alderwoman Gail Mull said she liked the white signs with green lettering, but off-record sources tell The Smoky Mountain News there is a bit of trepidation surrounding one of the proposed sign options — the colors of the antique bronzed-style model are a little too close to the black and gold livery of Haywood County arch-rival high school Tuscola for some diehard black and red Pisgah high school graduates (see FOOTBALL, page 11). 

Aldermen will decide on the signs in the coming weeks. Smathers said he hopes to see them installed by late summer, if not sooner. The first batch will be placed in almost a dozen prominent downtown Canton locations, including along Park Street at Adams and Sorrels streets, as well as on Main Street at Adams, Academy, Depot, Mears and Sorrels streets. 

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