Restored Saugatuck mural showcased in Westport Historical Society exhibit
The history of the town's Saugatuck section is the theme of a new Westport Historical Society exhibit -- "Saugatuck @ Work: Haven of Community, Commerce, Innovation" -- showcasing a refurbished mural of the community in the 19th century.
The mural, installed in the Westport Bank & Trust Co.'s Saugatuck branch when it opened in 1970, is by Westport artist Robert L. Lambdin and depicts Saugatuck as a riverside hub of commercial activity.
The exhibit will open with a reception Sunday, from noon to 2 p.m., at the historical society, 25 Avery Place.
The mural, called "Saugatuck in the 19th Century," measures 6 by 10 feet and features various vessels that plied the river during that era, as well as long-gone landmarks such as the Saugatuck Bank, precursor of Westport Bank & Trust, and the Methodist Church. It also depicts neighborhood landmarks that survive, including the original firehouse, the swing bridge over the Saugatuck River and the railroad station.
Although the Connecticut Turnpike, now Interstate 95, was not built until the mid-20th century, Lamdin frames the setting with the highway's bridge that now overshadows the area.
Westport Bank & Trust later merged into TD Bank, which donated the mural to the town when it closed its Saugatuck office earlier this year. The mural was then restored by Joseph T. Matteis of Clinton Fine Arts Workshop.
After the historical society exhibit, the mural will become part of the permanent art collection at Town Hall.
"The mural's depiction of the genesis of our town is a great teaching tool for our students and hopefully will stimulate dialogue and further exploration," Kathleen Motes Bennewitz, the town's art curator, said in publicity for the exhibit. "And with Saugatuck's present-day renewed economic and social vitality," she said, "comes a unique opportunity to build a new awareness and appreciation of its rich historical, economic and cultural significance as the first town center, not simply `a neighborhood of Westport.' "
The exhibition will also include historic photographs of workers and workplaces in Saugatuck, antique maps of the harbor, vintage tools made there, patents by Saugatuck inventors, costumes, and ship and railroad logs.
In addition, the Westport Historical Society and partner organizations plan programs in conjunction with the exhibit, including book and film discussions, community conversations, exhibitions, performances and more, according to exhibit organizers.
A companion exhibit chronicling Italian and Irish immigrants who settled in Saugatuck during the 19th century, "Framing Saugatuck," will run in the historical society's Mollie Donovan Gallery concurrently with "Saugatuck @ Work."
"Saugatuck @ Work" will run Nov. 23 to May 30, 2015, at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit www.westporthistory.org.