Three murals painted by Archibald Willard were displayed publicly for the first time May 14 inside Wellington village hall.
The works were discovered by Gary Walker of the Wellington Masonic Lodge in 2009 while visiting the Ohio Masonic Home in Springfield, Ohio, which led to a lengthy process of getting them to Wellington.
The murals arrived in the village last summer and have since been maintained by Scott Markel of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum.
Grant dollars are being sought from the Nord Family Foundation of Amherst to fund the preservation and eventual display of the murals.
“We’re hoping to have all three preserved by next year for the bicentennial celebration,” Markel said. “That’s our goal. If not, we’ll get it funded somehow. They’re definitely going into the museum. The Nord Foundation is our main focus at this point but plan B would be locally funding it.”
How the murals ended up in Springfield was initially a mystery, but Nicole Hayes, a historian who runs the blog 19th Century Wellington, said their origin has been traced to 1875.
“We believe they were created for a masonic lodge in Bellefontaine, Ohio, and stayed there until the early 20th century,” she said. “Then they were donated by that lodge to another in West Mansfield around 1906. They stayed there until 1996 when they were sent to Springfield and then finally Wellington.”
The murals, each measuring more than 10 feet across, depict various degrees of Free Masonry: entered apprentice, fellowcraft, and master mason.
Markel and Hayes dubbed the showing the start of their “Willard Initiative,” a joint venture between the masonic lodge and Southern Lorain County Historical Society to raise awareness of the murals.
“The historical society and the masons want to get these preserved, but it’s going to be a long road,” said Hayes. “They’ll need a lot of financial support. They’re so huge and treating them will be a huge challenge. Decisions need to be made on whether they’ll go in a frame or just hang on the wall. Ultimately, the plan is to reorganize the ground level gallery at the museum.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.