Progress in Restoration of Historic Paintings from Watertown City Hall

Print More

City of Watertown One of two historic paintings in Watertown’s City Hall being cleaned using funds from the Community Preservation Act.

By Joyce Kelly

As we have reported, the geographical paintings that usually flank the foyer at the main entrance to City Hall are currently in the studio of conservator Louise Orsini being refurbished.

In 2022, the Historical Society of Watertown received a grant from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for the conservation of the two geographical paintings. The 5 ½ x 7 ½ foot paintings were installed when the building opened in 1932. One painting represents a map of the town in the early years (1630 is the year of its founding) and the other painting is a depiction of an aerial view of Watertown in 1930 (our Tercentenary year).

The 2 paintings that flank the foyer of City Hall are out for conservation – one depicting a map of the town in the early days, and the other is an aerial view of the town in 1930.

During a “field trip” to Louise’s studio in February to see the progress, Louise informed us that loose dust had been vacuumed off and nano-gel sheets were being used to clean the paintings – a non-invasive, more efficient method than the mechanical action of a cotton swab. The nano-gel sheets have removed layers of nicotine accumulated on the paintings from cigarette smoke that was in the air for the almost 90 years they were hanging in the foyer of City Hall.

Louise reported this week that the cleaning of the paintings is close to being done. After cleaning all the nicotine off, she was able to get a layer of soot off of the yellow background of the 1630 depiction, and a layer of soot off the sky of the 1930 depiction. Other areas, such as the fruits and flowers and the greens of the landscape, could not have the soot layer removed safely. Fortunately, the 1630 yellow background and the 1930 sky soot removal make a big difference and will help the murals look one step closer to their original color. 

Below are detailed images taken during the soot removal (after the nicotine removal) so that you can see the transformation.

A section of the 1630 geographical painting showing the yellow background with Fresh Pond in the center, and the 1930 geographical painting showing a section of the light blue sky framed by fruits and leaves. There is a clear delineation where the soot has been removed.

“The next step is to consolidate/coat the murals with a synthetic resin. This will increase the saturation and make the colors slightly more vivid. It will also serve as a protective layer.” Louise Orsini reported. “I will be done with coating the murals this week and will start filling the losses next week.” She has also done some inpainting to fill in some of the paint that has gone missing over the years. 

Both paintings are expected to be ready for reinstallation before the end of the year.

One thought on “Progress in Restoration of Historic Paintings from Watertown City Hall

  1. Thank you for sharing this important information. Both paintings represent an important contribution to the history of our town. It will be so interesting to view them in person when the restoration is completed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *