A Civic Jewel & WPA Murals Restored on Long Island

I recently discovered this lovely civic architectural jewel in Long Island and couldn’t resist to blog about it.

Designed by architect William B. Tubby, the building at 1550 Franklin Ave. (Mineola, NY) was inaugurated in 1902 and remained the seat of county government until the start of World War II, when it fell into disrepair and played a marginal role in local governance.

Thankfully, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi championed the idea of repairing the landmark and a massive $63.5 million restoration began in May 2002.

Officially opened in February of this year, the old courthouse features coffered ceilings, Ionic columns, a gilded rotunda and murals designed by artist Robert Gaston Herbert which was commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression.

In February 1902, The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper reported:

The Board of Supervisors of Nassau County held open house at the courthouse and jail today and as a result this place has been a Mecca of Nassau taxpayers, who came from far and near to see what kind of a court house and jail this county really had. The general verdict of all who went through the buildings was that Nassau County has as fine public building as any county in the state. (source)

Not only is the building well designed but it sits across from a block of square buildings that complement the forms and create a large open public space that is both inviting and refined.

While the architecture is typically American in its taste for clean simplified forms, the murals inside are particularly appealing since they tell historical snippets of a place that many people forget has any.

Beginning with the delineation of New York state counties in the 17th C., the murals by Robert Gaston Herbert cherry pick important moments in local lore until ending with the inauguration of the courthouse by Theodore Roosevelt, who during the 1900 ceremony was governor of New York but was already the 26th U.S. President by the time the building opened two years later.

One of the most curious things about the murals are how the painter’s style seems to shift in the oldest scene, which is dominated by stiff figures and little tonal subtly, until the final panel, which is painted in a more naturalistic manner incorporating lush colors, soft details and stirring rhetoric.

Check out my Flickr set of photos of the murals and limited building details here.

3 responses to “A Civic Jewel & WPA Murals Restored on Long Island”

  1. What a find! Thanks for sharing it.

    If you’re ever in Scarsdale and can find their main post office, you can check out another great seldom-seen example of huge WPA-era mural painting in an elaborate civic building. Thought not as elaborate as this one!

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