The mystery of the mural has been unraveled, but just partially.
Soon after Tuesday’s Beacon hit the streets with a front-page picture of a mural found in a City Hall closet, Jan Marshall’s phone started to ring.
Marshall, who works in the City Clerk’s office and has written many of the grants for the preservation of city records, has made it her mission to learn about the mural of Apponaug Four Corners and, if possible, preserve it and have it displayed.
One of the first calls came from David Ellis, who not only knew where the mural came from, but was also involved in mounting it.
To Marshall’s amazement, the painting is not as old as she imagined. Also, it was not displayed in a city building as thought.
Jason Neiwert knew that, too.
He also called Marshall and the Beacon.
He remembers as a boy of 6 years old sitting in the Mr. Donut coffee shop in Apponaug and being entranced by the painting. Mr. Donut was a freestanding building in the IM Gan plaza on the southeast corner of Apponaug Four Corners. The Gan building and coffee shop no longer exist and Walgreen’s stands on the site.
“I was transfixed by it,” Neiwert said of the mural on the north wall of the coffee shop. As one looked out the shop window, one was looking at the four corners as they were at the time and then, by glancing at the mural, saw from the same vantage how it appeared about 1903.
“That was cool. I would love to find out who drew it,” Neiwert said.
That piece of the puzzle and how the mural, which is in three sections of canvas, arrived at City Hall has yet to be found.
But Mike Ferrante is hot on the trail.
Ferrante also called Marshall. He spent a lot of years working in Apponaug as a dispatcher for the Apponaug Cab Company and for Arc Electronics. He knows why the mural is missing the signature of its creator and why it was painted in the first place.
He told Marshall the artist was Paul Sample, which is the name of the artist who painted the mural in the Apponaug Post Office. He also said that there were two panels missing from the three found in City Hall.
Marshall didn’t wait. She immediately visited the Post Office to view that mural and then turned to Google to learn more about Sample.
Sample was born Sept. 14, 1896 in Louisville, Ky. He traveled around the country. His style became known as “Social Realism” and reflected his sentiments toward the economic crisis affecting people during the Great Depression. The Post Office mural is a scene of Apponaug Cove looking north from under the railroad trestle on Arnold’s Neck.
The Post Office mural is signed by Sample and dated 1942.
But here’s where the trail goes cold.
As Ferrante recalls, the Apponaug Four Corners mural was commissioned by the owners of Mr. Donut to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial and the work was done in 1975. That’s a year after Sample died.
Also, he remembers the mural being a copy of a photograph from the turn of the century and the artist being 25 to 30 years old.
“He was no old guy, that’s for sure,” Ferrante said.
Ferrante said the mural was taken down in 1988, when the coffee shop was sold. It stayed rolled up in a utility room until 1990, when the building was renovated and Ferrante was involved in re-gluing it to the wall.
During that process, Ferrante said, some of the original mural was trimmed and a cut was made for a wall outlet. The artist’s signature was lost, but Ferrante said it was Paul Sample.
Google searches on Sample found that he had a son named Timothy. So, was there another Paul Sample? And, it’s a mystery too, how the three panels ended up in City Hall.