As Indiana Jones would proclaim, “They belong in a museum!”
Three very large murals painted by Archibald Willard have been transferred to Wellington from Springfield, Ohio. They now sit at the Wellington Masonic lodge until arrangements can be made to set them up for display at the Spirit of ‘76 Museum, 201 North Main St.
“They were discovered by Gary Walker, who was the master of our lodge here in Wellington at the time,” said museum board vice president and Masonic lodge member Scott Markel. “The person that ran the Ohio Masonic Home was there and they happened to be seated at the same table. After noticing Gary’s name tag that said ‘Wellington,’ he remembered coming across the Willard murals.”
According to Markel, that conversation happened in 2009 — and led to the lengthy process of getting the historic artifacts to Wellington.
“Each year the Masonic fraternity changes out its leadership,” he said. “We let them know our plight of wanting to get these murals back to Willard’s hometown. Most of it was them not knowing where the murals came from. They just kind of wanted to make sure they weren’t giving away someone’s property. No one ever tried to prevent us from having them. They just didn’t try very hard to help us get them until recently.”
Markel said how the murals got to Springfield is completely unknown, even to the lodge that was holding onto them. He estimates the murals were painted sometime in the 1870s.
“I’ve got a few people working on it to see what the connection is to Springfield,” he said. “Willard entered the Masonic fraternity in 1867 and he was famous by 1870. People are trying to put together the time from of when they were painted and who they were painted for. Right now, though, it’s a bit of a mystery.”
The three murals, which individually measure nearly 10 feet across, each represent a degree of free Masonry: entered apprentice, fellowcraft, and master mason.
“It’s all Masonic teachings about to how to make good men better men. It all revolves around the building of temples,” Markel said. “They show the process of sawing logs to roll stones for temple construction, the construction process, and the final image of King Solomon’s temple.”
The murals have already been registered as artifacts and are under the ownership of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum. The next step will be setting them up for display and preservation with archival backing. Preliminary cost estimations to do that fall around $15,000 for each mural, Markel said.
“It will come down to some grant funding,” he said. “I don’t know if those would come from a federal, state, or local level right now. We’re hoping we’ll be able to find some sort of grant towards preservation of historic artwork.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Scott Markel of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum stands beside three murals painted by Archibald Willard that were brought to Wellington in May. They were discovered by the Wellington Masonic Lodge in 2009 at the Ohio Masonic Home in Springfield.