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Saving the Stoneham Mural

What do an 18th-century shoemaker, a stagecoach driver, a Union Soldier, a bare-knuckle boxer and a land surveyor have in common? What is their connection to a WWII Marine combat artist, a world-class art conservator and the Stoneham Historical Society & Museum (SHSM)?

Check Donations: 
Please make your check payable to: Stoneham Historical Society and note that your donation of for the Stoneham Mural and mail to:

Stoneham Historical Society
36 William Street
Stoneham, MA 02180

or, if you would like to donate using a credit card, use the yellow Donate button.

The government permits the following:
People can use a QCD (Qualified Charitable Distribution) to manage their RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) from their IRA (Individual Retirement Account). Essentially, a QCD allows individuals who are 70 1/2 years old or older to donate up to $100,000 total to one or more charities directly from a taxable IRA instead of taking their required minimum distribution. This donation is NOT taxed, nor is it included in that donor’s taxable income

Total Raised

$148,098.19

A New Initiative: ARTchiving Stoneham

The first are people from Stoneham’s history depicted in Stoneham, Yesterday and Today, a mural painted by Richard M. Gibney in 1968, saved from possible destruction and the catalyst for ARTchiving Stoneham, a new initiative of the SHSM. Under the ARTchiving Stoneham initiative, the SHSM aims to preserve and conserve historically and culturally significant pieces of artwork in our community. 

For over 50 years, the mural was a familiar sight to all who entered the Main Street branch of the Middlesex County National Bank and later Bank of America. 

Upon learning of the June 2021 closing of the bank and the uncertain fate of the mural, we began working to secure ownership of the artwork and to raise funds for its proper removal, conservation and re-installation for public viewing.

The mural was professionally removed from the walls of the bank in January 2022 by Gianfranco Pocobene, Chief Conservator of the Isabella Gardner Museum, and is currently being cleaned and restored by Pocobene Studio. The expectation is that the mural’s three panels, totaling 45 feet, will be displayed in the newly renovated SHSM this coming November.

Your Support is Needed / How can I help?

Since June 2021, we’ve achieved quite a lot, but our work is not finished. We’ve set a fundraising goal of $150,000. To date, we have raised $123,000 toward this project through grants and generous private donations. With the support of partners like you, the mural can be enjoyed again. Will you help us? We are actively pursuing fundraising opportunities, including matching grants, in-kind donations and corporate partnerships.

For over 100 years, the SHSM has worked to preserve our shared history. Take your place on the Donor Honor Roll. Your support is deeply appreciated.

An Important Work of Art and History

The mural is a 45’ x 6’ painting done in acrylic on Belgian linen. There is a small drawing of the mural, completed by the artist, which hangs in the Stoneham Public Library. There is also a photograph of a lost preliminary artist’s drawing which was utilized as a handout at the Middlesex County National Bank in 1968.

The vignettes depicted are a cordwainer in his “10 footer” shoe shop; a stagecoach on the turnpike, now Main Street, with the First Congregational Church on the village green; the railroad station with a Union soldier; a bare-knuckle boxing match on Great Island in Spot Pond; the ground of the former New England Memorial Hospital; and surveyors and the construction of I-93.

About the Artist

Richard M. Gibney (1922-2000) grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York and graduated from Syracuse University before being drafted into the Marines at the start of WWII. Originally trained as a demolitions engineer and later part of the Marine Art Program, Gibney saw and painted combat during many battles in the South Pacific. He took part in multiple landings, including Tarawa and Saipan and was a survivor of the “Westlock Tragedy” in which the ship he was on was heavily damaged in an explosion.

He returned to the U.S. after the war and continued his art studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then in Europe as part of a travel scholarship. Moved by his European study of stained glass and frescoes, Gibney designed and created the stained glass windows for the Recruit Chapel at the Marines’ Parris Island in South Carolina. He also created 20 public murals in the United States, including several on the North Shore and Cape Ann, where he resided after the war. During the early 1960s, Gibney worked at Boston’s The Museum of Fine Arts, performing restorative/educational work in the care of incoming fine arts and the showing/treatment and care of such art.  He was one of the featured artists in the PBS documentary They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of World War II.

About the Conservators

The Gianfranco Pocobene Studio in Malden, established in 2004, specializes in the conservation and restoration of paintings, murals and historic paint decorations. The studio undertakes treatments of the highest quality for museums, religious institutions, universities, private galleries and collectors across the country.

Gianfranco received his master’s degree in conservation from Queen’s University, Kingston Canada, in 1984 and a Certificate of Advanced Training from the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard Art Museums in 1989. In addition to directing the studio, his conservation experience includes 15 years at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard Art Museums and 16 years as Chief Conservator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Stoneham Mural News

https://vimeo.com/935601872/788bafe287 Some people might say that including the 4th scene on this mural was an unusual choice, given all the other noteworthy historical “moments in time” that could be depicted and celebrated on this prominent artwork. One of the most interesting bits of Stoneham’s past is the story of the sporting days on Spot Pond’s Great Island. Stoneham was rapidly growing in the 1850s and the burgeoning shoe business brought many new families to town. The scenic and pristine area provided a recreational center where people hired boats for fishing, held picnics, played games, and enjoyed leisure activities. In the…

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Curious about illegal bare-knuckle boxing matches on Great Island in Spot Pond? Please view this presentation recording via stonehamtv.org. Search for “Illegal Boxing Matches” via the On Demand feature.

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Thursdays are for throwbacks, so here’s a look back at the closure of the Bank of America branch on Main Street in 2021, which left the future of the historic “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” mural by artist Richard M. Gibney unknown.

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