High School Rehab Uncovers 1934 Frescoes in D.C.

Crews rehabbing Roosevelt High School in northwest D.C. moved over for conservationists after making an unexpected, exciting discovery.

Workers stripping down the building found historic artifacts behind layers of paint: Two frescoes from 1934.

“I was just amazed,” said Tracy Eichelberger of the Roosevelt executive team. “I was amazed that such riches could be under the yellow paint that we have stared at.”

“Once we removed the ceiling, we saw everything of the mural … and realized that the mural, for the most part, was still intact,” said Mary Rankin, an architect with Perkins Eastman D.C.

Rankin researched the find. Old newspaper clippings helped tell the story.

The frescoes are products of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative called PWA – Public Works Administration.

The fresco titled “Adolescent America” captures entertainment, movies and fun. The 12-by-40-foot “American Panorama” features scientists, innovation and industry.

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“We eat lunch down here, and nobody suspected that this kind of history was here right behind us on the wall,” Eichelberger said.

The discovery started a long process of preserving and removing the frescoes.

“What the conservationist did was apply layers of cheese cloth and glue to what you see on the wall, let it harden and set up, and then literally peeled that off the wall,” Rankin said.

The color is through the depth of the plaster, not just on the surface level like a paint brush will give you.

They then transfer the art to canvas so it can be hung. The plan is to hang both pieces in the school’s new grand entrance.

The project is expected to be done in August 2015.

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