The grease from frying donuts and nicotine from the days when smoking in restaurants was commonplace is gone and now a scene of Apponaug from the early 1900s looks as bright as it did when painted for the nation’s bicentennial.
But the mural is no longer in a coffee shop. It is on the wall of the City Clerk’s office in City Hall, not far from where it’s three sections were stored for decades.
The mystery of the mural has still not been solved and maybe no one will ever learn who painted it or how it happened to end up with the city.
What is known is that the mural has been the source for lots of speculation and, thanks to Amie Hannon Boesch and Roy Collins, it’s together again and brought back to life.
Collins learned of the mural from a friend who brought a Warwick Beacon story to his attention. The story recounted the efforts of city archivist Jan Marshall to identify the artist and determine the date it was painted, necessary in order to gain a grant to have it restored. At the time, restoration was estimated at about $3,500.
Collins, who is director of Vagabond Portfolios of Chepachet, said on Tuesday that he waited and waited, but nobody came forward to claim they had done the work or offered to restore it.
“After a couple of months I decided to do it for free,” he said.
“You mean, ‘She decided to do it,’” Boesch said, referring to herself.
Boesch was trained in historic preservation at Roger Williams University and did an apprenticeship with Collins. She did the restoration and Collins picked up the cost of materials.
Soon after the Beacon published a story on the mural about a year ago, Mike Ferrante called to report it was painted around 1976 and had been displayed at the Mr. Donut coffee shop not far from Apponaug Four Corners, where Walgreen’s is today. Ferrante remembers helping remove the mural when the coffee shop was sold, but he couldn’t come up with a name for the artist.
Suggestions came from several people, including City Historian Henry Brown. He thought the artist was Cay Epstein, who had painted other murals in the city, but, now living in Texas, Epstein said she hadn’t painted it.
Boesch glued the fabric-backed vinyl wallpaper onto a board, carefully aligning the seams of each painted panel so they are barely visible. She painstakingly went about cleaning years of grime from the painting. Doing a six-inch square of the 12-by-8-foot mural took more than an hour’s work. She started the process in April and the completed mural was delivered to City Hall earlier this week.
Mayor Scott Avedisian thanked Boesch and Collins for their contribution and presented them with citations.
As the assembly looked at the mural, Boesch pointed out where one of the panels was narrower than the others. Had a missing part contained the signature of the artist? Might it have been connected to a fourth panel?
There weren’t any answers. But most agree there could be more to this picture than meets the eye.