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)?
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.
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.
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 $101,000 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.
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.
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.
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
Each week, we’ll take a closer look at the historic stories and scenes depicted in Richard Gibney’s mural, “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today.”
Stoneham residents and bank customers got their first look at the historic mural “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” 55 years ago. The mural, painted by Richard Gibney, made headlines when it was unveiled on May 27, 1968 at the Middlesex County National Bank branch on Main Street.
Thursdays are for throwbacks, so here’s a look at how “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today” was removed from the Main Street Branch of Bank of America.