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Depression Era Murals Return to Staten Island After Decades in Storage

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 14, 2013 9:23am
 Five murals by artist Axel Horn, painted during the Great Depression, were restored and hung in Supreme Court.
Axel Horn Murals Unveiled in Staten Island
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ST. GEORGE — After decades in storage, five murals painted during the Great Depression have been restored and hung inside Staten Island Supreme Court.

The paintings, created by Axel Horn in 1937, originally hung in the former Farm Colony poorhouse, but were placed inside a storage unit in Queens after the facility was closed.

Local preservationist, the late Jane Lyons, joined with members of the Staten Island Museum to work to get them publicly displayed in the borough again. They were unveiled on Wednesday.

"We now have these beautiful murals and our citizens and all the public can come to the court and actually experience part of our history," said Judith McMahon, administrative judge of Richmond County Supreme Court.

Horn, who died in 2001, was paid to paint the murals — which depict Staten Island's early history — under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression — one of the New Deal programs during that time.

His son, Chris Horn, a film editor, said Wednesday was the first time he saw the murals in person, and was impressed at the work that went into renovating them.

"I'm amazed at how good they look," Horn said. "I think this is a great setting for them because they're really meant to be in a public building."

The renovations and redisplaying of the murals was spearheaded by Lyons, who passed away in February. She was a former director of SeaView Hospital Rehabilitation Center and worked to preserve local history.

After getting the Staten Island Museum on board, Lyons worked with local politicians and leaders to find the murals, restore them and get them displayed in a public place.

Four murals will be shown in courtroom 209 in Staten Island Supreme Court, with one outside. They join several other murals from the same time period displayed around the St. George neighborhood.