Painting of early St. Marys being restored for bicentennial

ST. MARYS — A 19th century folk painting that for years has hung in a St. Marys museum is being repaired and restored as part of the celebration of that city’s bicentennial celebration this year.

The painting depicts a number of vignettes in and around St. Marys from the post-Civil War era, including a sign advertising the Dieker House, an early hotel in the community. The painting also features a quotation in German roughly translated as, “Finally, let us have no more hostilities (or enemies), and [we] go home in peace-as always,” according to Rachel Barber, administrator of the Auglaize County Historical Society.

The large (nearly 4-by-5 foot) painting was donated to the historical society several decades ago; virtually nothing is known about its origins. It has long hung on the wall at the Mooney Museum in St. Marys, but according to Barber, is significantly stained and wrinkled.

In 2021 an expert in artifact preservation suggested that improved conservation effort was necessary to ensure the painting would not disintegrate. Last year the trustees of the historical society voted to commission the services of Jamison Art Conservation, a professional art conservation studio specializing in works on paper, to restore the painting.

When the conservation process is completed a new frame will be created for the painting and it will be rehung at the Mooney Museum, with all appropriate preservation measures in place, including provisions for low lighting.

The historical society anticipates a reveal party for the painting later in 2023, in conjunction with the conclusion of the project and the continuing celebration of St. Marys Bicentennial.

Funding for the conservation of the painting has been provided by the St. Marys Community Foundation, through an endowment established for permanent improvements at the Mooney Museum.

“We are very grateful for the assistance from Mike Makley and the community foundation, without which this project would not have been possible,” Barber said.

The city of St. Marys was founded in 1823 on land near the St. Marys River.