Friends of the Library Celebrate Preservation Month

With May being Historic Preservation Month, the East Boston Friends of the Library (FOL) held a special event that included music, an auction and an unveiling of the next Frederick Leonard King painting scheduled to be restored.

Chair of the East Boston Friends of the Library’s (FOL) Art Restoration Committee Susan Brauner talks about the next Frederick Leonard King painting to be restored, the Pirate Dhow.

The painting, part of King’s historic series ‘Ships Through the Ages,’ is entitled ‘The Pirate Dhow’ and will be restored by the Oliver Brothers art restoration firm.

Currently the East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library on Bremen Street has five King paintings on display in the library’s quiet room. Chair of the FOL’s Art Restoration Committee Susan Brauner invites the community to check the historic paintings in honor of Historic Preservation Month.

The group of historic paintings commissioned during the President Roosevelt-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1935. The paintings are being restored to their former glory through a National Endowment of the Arts grant, as well as the East Boston Foundation.

The series of King painting entitled ‘Ships Through the Ages’ once hung in the former Meridian Street Library and are now on rotation at the Bremen Street branch.

“In East Boston the branch has on display in the quiet room five paintings in the series Ships Through The Ages by artist Frederick Leonard King,” said Brauner.  “They are remarkably well done and executed.   The whole series used to hang in the first floor at the Meridian Street building, and many residents say they used to do their homework under them. Like many WPA art works the series related directly to the East Boston community as shipbuilding was an important industry for many years.”

Last year the FLO unveiled the restored King painting ‘The Flying Cloud’ that depicts the famed 19th Century Clippership built by Donald McKay on Eastie’s waterfront.

There were 20 paintings in the series with five on display at the Bremen Street Branch, 10 are currently in storage at the Copley Library and five, sadly, are missing.

“To complete the series the Friends of The Library would like to locate or find the last five in the series,” said Brauner. “They are federal property–WPA art is always on loan and not given to an institution–and we would like to be good stewards.”

The five missing are the following:

  • Cog – 12th Century. The cog was a kind of early ship, broad with bluff prow and stern, sometimes used as a fishing boat. This type was used by Madoc of Wales in his legendary trip to America  to establish a colony in America.
  • Mayflower and Arbella – 15th Century. These were part of The Winthrop Fleet that brought the Pilgrims to New England.  The Arbella was the flagship.
  • La Salle’s Griffon – 17th Century. This vessel is of interest because it was one of the first to be built on the Great Lakes.  LaSalle used her for exploring and trading.
  • John Paul Jones’ Bon Homme Richard – 18th Century. Jones is “The Father of the American Navy”.  A well know quote is “I have not yet begun to fight!” during a sea battle in 1779.
  • Modern Grain Ship – (Date not known). This ship is over one thousand feet long, her engines are 200,000 horsepower.

Through Brauner’s relationship with the The First Church in Boston on Marlborough Street, a minister there has offered to pick up the paintings if they are discovered. According to Brauner the minister will offer full confidentiality and no questions asked. All the person simply has to do is call the church at  (617) 267-6730 and leave a message to arrange for pick up.

Last week’s unveiling included of the Pirate Dhow included a performance by “A Touch of Class Singers” led by Ed Meradith that was followed by a reading by actress Kathleen Monteleone of the poem Invictus, written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley.

The entire King series can be seen on line: www.bpl.org/NeighborhoodBranches/EastBoston/BranchTreasures/eastbostonbranch

All proceeds raised at last Thursday’s even go to support our local library programming.

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