-By John Lynds
It’s good news for residents that were trying to keep the historic paintings that currently hang in the Meridian Street branch of the Boston Public Library in East Boston.
It was announced this week that the painting by Frederick Leonard King would be incorporated into the design of the new library that will be built on the Bremen Street Park over the next three years.
The group of paintings, titled “A History of Shipping” was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project under the Federal Arts Project (FAP) dating from 1935. The FAP was the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era New Deal WPA Federal One program in the United States. It operated from August 29, 1935 until June 30, 1943. FAP’s primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for non-federal government buildings like schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.
With that news also came the announcement that the Friends of the Library are looking for grant money to restore the 14 paintings to a pristine condition so they will be at their best when the new library opens to the public. On April 18 at the Meridian Street Branch Friends of the Library will be presenting a program so residents in Eastie can get aquatinted with the King paintings. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m.
“We will be talking about the history of the paintings and some interesting facts that may or not be known. Plan on being there for an informative presentation,” said Friends of the Library member Maddy McComiskey.
The paintings were originally at the Jeffries Point Branch on Webster Street. When the Jeffries Point branch was closed the murals were put up at the Meridian Street branch.
However, some rumors floated around Eastie that BPL administrators are of the opinion that the painting would not fit the decor of the new state-of-the-art modern library that will be constructed on the former NStar site on Bremen Street.
The rumors set off a bit of controversy and lit a fire under members of the Friends of the Library group who organized an effort to ensure the painting remain in Eastie and are hung at the new library.
“It is important, as well to preserve the history of artistic accomplishments of the W.P.A. during the great depression,” said Friends of the Library member Karen Maddalena. “The Roosevelt administration enacted programs to provide work for artists; craftsman and ordinary people who were struggling to survive and provide for their families. These murals and the ones in the (East Boston) Post Office display and preserve a wonderful part of our political history.”
The new library is slated to be constructed adjacent to the Bremen Street Park on a piece of land formerly owned by NStar. The 14,600 square foot, $11.3 million library will be designed by the same team responsible for the new Mattapan branch finished last year.
There, architects from William Rawn Associates created up-to-date library facilities, an open reading room, and an outdoor courtyard configuration. The sustainable building merges indoor and outdoor spaces and had redefined the experience of the library there.
William L. Rawn III, founder of the firm, said the location and design of the new library would aim to link the building to the rest of the community.
“We want this building to have a visibility and prominence in the neighborhood,” said Rawn. “We also want it to feel accessible to the broad citizenship that lives in East Boston.”
Rawn said the location of the library, on the 18-acre Bremen Street Park, is ideal because of its central location in Eastie as well as its ability to be accessed by both Airport and Wood Island MBTA stations.
Construction will begin in spring of 2012 and end in the summer of 2013 with the branch opening in late summer or early fall of 2013.