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First Cleaning Reveals Vibrant Color in Bridgeport Post Office Mural (w/ photo)

By JOSELYN KING, Wheeling News-Register, 6/26/2007

The historic 67-year-old mural at the Bridgeport Post Office is receiving its first cleaning. Paint conservators out of Chicago have been working to clean the "Ohio Harvest," a mural painted in 1940 by Richard Kenah. About 1,300 murals were painted for post offices across the United States as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Administration Program, and at least 200 have been lost, according to the Parma Conservation. The U.S. Postal Service is seeking to restore many of the paintings in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the New Deal programs.

Post offices constructed during the 1930s were decorated with paintings and sculptures that were to reflect the "American scene," along with the community in which they were to be placed. Depression-era artists competed for the honor of doing the work.

The Bridgeport mural is considered one of the most important. In 1940, Life Magazine featured the best post office paintings from the then 48 states, and the Bridgeport painting, a farm scene, was selected as the best in Ohio. The arist, Kenah, a native of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, received at least two other commissions for paintings from the postal service.

This is the first time that the murals have been painted. As the crew brushed away the dirt, some of the workers noticed that some of the darker-colored horses became nearly white -- some were even spotted. Overall, the mural is in excellent condition.

It will take from a few days to a number of weeks to clean a painting.

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