Monday, August 13, 2018

Milliron Monday: The Hidden Mural II 8 13 18

Welcome to the August 13, 2018 edition of Milliron Monday! Every Monday I write about (writing about) Dr. Abbott "Pete" Smith's biography, Milliron. Pete Smith, D.V.M. grew up in Maine, USA. His Mother and Grandmother were accomplished artists. Since last week's post about The Hidden Mural (originally painted by Pete's Mother, Betty), several people requested to read the full article (shown above) of how the mural was found and renovated. Here is the complete article...

In Freeport, farmhouse renovations uncover  mural
The Times Record
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
by Paul Cunningham, The Times Record Staff Reporter
Freeport, Maine, USA

A month ago, workers at Wolfe's Neck farm removed plywood from a wall in the farm's main building and brought to light a painted mural for the first time in nearly 35 years.

Many of the staff had heard rumors of such a painting, but until that moment never paid much attention to them.

The wall of horsehair plaster had several settling cracks in it, a few gaping holes where portions of the mural were missing, and as volunteer James DeGrandpre recalls, "a gazillion nail holes" where plywood had covered the art. Yet there was much excitement about the discovery, so phone calls were made to have the find evaluated.

Artist Linda Swanson of Wolfe Neck has been a volunteer at the farm for many years. After seeing the mural, she determined that an effort should be made immediately to restore it if possible.

Swanson also began researching for the artist's name and the story behind the work. After several phone conversations with a former resident of the building, the tale of the moral unfolded.

Just after World War II, Betty and Abbott Smith [Pete's Mom and Dad] along with their children, lived at the seaside farm on Burnett Road. Betty was a homemaker: Abbott ran a business in Portland selling real estate and insurance.

In those days, people led completely different lives than today. The roads were sometimes blocked with snow and too muddy to travel easily in the spring. During the summer, a few people came to the area and spent time in their cottages, but overall it was a much quieter neighborhood.
While her husband was away with his business, Betty gardened, rode horses, and took care of the children. 
Betty painted the mural on the plaster wall in the dining room of their house. The scene she chose was of Casco Bay as seen from nearby Pritham Bridge, also known as Little River Bridge. She was not an artist by training, but had the creativity to undertake the project.
In conversations with Linda Swanson, Betty Smith, now 89, said she has done two paintings in her life: the original in the home and a smaller version of the same scene that her family has kept through the years.
By 1963, because of a previous back injury, Abbott was advised to move from the seashore home to a drier climate, as the family relocated to Colorado.
Since then, the home has had a number of residents, most involved with the running and care of Wolfe's Neck Farm, a business developed by another Smith family - Mr. and Mrs. L.M.C. Smith. In 1968, the DeGrandpre family moved to the house, choosing its central location as the proper place to oversee the farm, which spread from Flying Point to Wolf Neck. Soon after moving in, Mrs. DeGrandpre had a local carpenter, Harold Ulrickson, cover the mural with plywood because of its dilapidated condition.

The years passed and memories of the art passed, leaving only rumors of its existence. "My family and I knew it was there," James DeGrandpre said recently, "but our memories were of a wall and painting in very poor condition."
This winter, workers and volunteers began a renovation of the first floor of the house, which now serves as an office and educational area for the Wolfe's Neck Farm Foundation. As the walls were prepared for new paint and wallpaper, the plywood over the mural in the former dining room was removed by James DeGrandpre and his father, Charles, and the painting was exposed. The poor condition of the wall was a shock to some, but represented a treasurer to others.
After evaluating the work, Linda Swanson and a friend, Hannah Dring of Harpswell, set about restoring it. "We had to try," Swanson said. "The 'primitive' mural represents a part of the history of the house."
"Restoration is extremely difficult work for an artist," Swanson said. "We tried to follow the original brushstrokes of the painter while not expressing our own feelings on the subject. We added just a few ideas to make the folk painting 'read' better, but overall it's Betty Smith's original work preserved for years to come."

Read more about Pete in his biography, available from AmazonBarnes & Noble, or locally at Little Professor Book Center, Athens, Ohio. If you have a copy, please write a review. Books do not have to be purchased online to write a review.

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If you have a story to tell about Dr. Smith, please send to to be included in Tails of a Country Vet Volume II !

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Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave to us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled and pioneer veterinarian.

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