Two tile mosaic murals more than half-a-century old on the entry walls to City Hall that depicted the history of Arcadia will be uncovered and restored in the coming months.
The mosaics, featuring what appear to be child-like drawings depicting the area from the time of Spanish exploration through the Lucky Baldwin era and the first horse race track, were designed to be part of the remodeled 1947 City Hall in the late 1950s. Less than 20 years later the mosaics were painted over with a stucco-like paint in the 1970s and have not been seen since.
The mosaics were discovered as part of a $1 million-plus overhaul of the aging City Hall begun last year. Several tiles on both sides of the entryway were exposed in chunks during the removal of bannisters. The chunks of exposed tiles are visible to the public now awaiting a final decision about what to do with the underlying artwork that has been hidden for about four decades.
The City Council approved the $21,450 project to restore the artwork Tuesday by a vote of 4-1 after some discussion on the effort that was most strongly supported by Councilman Gary Kovacic and opposed by Mayor Bob Harbicht. Kovacic said it’s not only important that the City retain a connection to its historical roots but also create and maintain public art. Harbicht said that just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s historic or should be considered art. “There was probably a reason they covered it up,” he added.
According to a January 1958 newspaper article and photo in the Star-News dredged up by the Arcadia Public Library, the tile murals were designed by Jay Rivkin and included a third one at the then-new police station which was later destroyed to make way for the 21st century station now standing across the lawn from City Hall. The murals were approved at a cost of $11,540 in 1950s dollars, which would equate to more than $90,000 in today’s dollars when accounting for inflation.
Ongoing City Hall improvements began last year to ”increase the energy efficiency and aesthetics of “Upper” and “Lower” City Hall with replacement of air handling unit and installation of new double pane insulated windows and frames.
The second phase of City Hall improvements have been:
• Paint interior walls both Upper and Lower City Hall
• Paint exterior of the Upper and Lower buildings
• Install new signage and replace all existing interior doors and jams
• Install carpet and tile in Upper and Lower City Hall
Other notable building projects have included the extending of existing fiber infrastructure to other remote city facilities such as Fire, Library, Police, and Recreation.
More than $400,000 in recommended exterior renovations were discussed in the Tuesday study session as part of a Phase 3 of the project that will be brought back to City Council for final approval. Among the recommended improvements:
- clean and paint the building
- replace downspouts
- replace tile at entry area
- create additional landscaping
- install as many as 21 round skylights in the courtyard canopy and entry lobby
- replace guardrails with lighter and less distracting design
- install at least a dozen new aluminum and glass doors
- modify concrete wall at north entry from parking lot and add signage to provide clearer visual entry points for public
- replace entryway signage at stairs with informational kiosk
- add trim and roofing to align roof lines
- replace light fixtures at courtyard canopy
- add trellis plants to west wall in courtyard
- add water-conserving planting and irrigation between building foundation and walkways, and replace tropical plants with flowering perennials
- modify access ramps and handrails, add benches
- create two-level stepped planters in courtyard
- remove decorative railing at west building entry
As for the mosaic murals created by Rivkin, who died in 2006, Silverlake Conservation was contracted to help determine their condition.
The 16 or so exposed six-inch-square white clay tiles are in very good condition, for the most part. The glazes are gloss and satin colored glazes and black overglaze, according to a report from the City.