Lake George’s Prized Post Office Mural Will be Repaired, Restored
The mural decorating the wall of Lake George’s Post Office, which appears to have been damaged by leaking water, will be repaired and restored, Post Office officials state.
“The contractor who replaced the building’s roof will be responsible for repairs to the mural using the services of a qualified, approved restorer. This will come at no cost to the Postal Service,” said Maureen Marion, a spokesperson for the US Post Office.
Elizabeth Kendall, a Chicago-based art restorer who was hired by the US Post Office to clean the mural several years ago, said, “Almost any type of damage can be dealt with, both structurally and aesthetically, and I am sure this will be the case with this mural.”
The repair of the mural will be undertaken in the spring, said Marion. The condition of the mural, a view of Lake George at sunset painted by Judson Smith in 1942, had elicited the attention of Village Mayor Bob Blais, Supervisor Dennis Dickinson and Congressman Bill Owens. According to Marion, leaks from the ceiling began to appear after the roof was replaced.
“Since the project’s substantial completion, we have seen evidence of water leaking into the facility above the mural on a handful of occasions. “At first, it was believed to be a masonry issue and two separate masonry-related repairs were made after leakages occurred. However, yet another leak did occur. If there is a silver lining here, their investigation in this instance has given them the clearest view of the source of the leak. We believe this will be the ticket to a final, effective repair,” said Marion.
According to Elizabeth Kendall, it was the policy of the federal government during the 1930s and early 1940s to require that 1% of the costs of constructing a new post office be devoted to art work for the building.
“It was not a relief program like the WPA to keep artists employed,” said Kendall. “It was much more prestigious. The artist had to submit a proposal; Smith probably came to Lake George to make some sketches. The local postmaster had the final say about whether the piece would be installed. He might ask for some changes if the colors of the cows were wrong.”
It is unclear whether Smith painted the canvas in his studio and brought it to Lake George or painted it on-site, Kendall said.
By 1942, Judson Smith was already a well-established artist.
Born in Michigan in 1880, Smith studied in New York with John LaFarge and John Henry Twachtman. He moved to Woodstock in 1921 and became a member of a school of artists associated with a realism that was infused with European, modernist influences. After World War II, Smith abandoned realism altogether and painted in a non-objective, abstract style. He died in 1962.
“This mural is very different from most of those we see in schools and post offices,” said Kendall. “It has a much more modern idiom. It’s quite beautiful.”