WAVERLY - The Waverly Post Office's historic Ohio and Erie Canal mural, "Arrival of the Packet - The Wave," will be restored to its original vibrancy thanks to noted art conservator Elizabeth Kendall of Parma Conservation of Chicago.
Through the generosity of the U.S. Postal Service's 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program, the mural will be cleaned and conserved. The mural is a lively record of yesteryear when the Ohio and Erie Canal was a principal means of transport.
Kendall and her associate will begin to construct scaffolding in the post office lobby Tuesday and proceed to work inch by inch to restore the mural's oil painting and its canvas. They are expected to complete the project Wednesday.
According to local historian Jim Henry, the mural depicts Waverly's first postmaster and famous citizen James Emmitt watching the arrival of "The Wave," one of the numerous canal boats to travel through Pike County between 1832 to 1913. The view is that of someone standing in front of the Grand Hotel and offers an authentic picture of the time.
The Ohio and Erie Canal arrived in Waverly on Sept. 6, 1832, and the Scioto Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution advanced the idea for the mural. The mural was painted in oil on canvas by Roy Best, a talented and colorful artist who grew up in Waverly. He trained in Cincinnati, worked in railroad construction to support himself and eventually moved north to enroll in Chicago's esteemed Art Institute.
Best's various illustrations were greatly admired, such as his occasional Saturday Evening Post covers, his masterful illustrations in Barrie's "Peter Pan" book and his calendar pin-up art.
He was paid $750 for executing Waverly's mural. It is signed "Roy Best 1942."
Post offices built between 1934 and 1943, during then-President Roosevelt's New Deal, had murals of American life painted by artists commissioned by The Section of Fine Arts established in 1934 and administrated by a division of the Treasury Department. This public art was accessible to all people, and the artists working for The Section were commissioned through national and regional competitions.
Though many post office murals have disappeared over the years or are in need of repair, the renewed interest in depression-era murals is inspiring an opportunity to enliven yesteryear for young and old alike, Henry said.