Missing St. Louis mural found in renovation

Saturday, March 8, 2014 | 7:47 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — A 28-foot-long mural that graced St. Louis Union Station starting in the 1940s was thought to be lost. It turns out it was just hiding.

The mural "Commerce on the Landing" was painted by Chicago artist Louis Grell and mounted over the station's ticket counter in 1942, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. At some point it was taken away. No one was sure what happened to it.

About a month ago, workers involved in the $66 million renovation of Union Station and its hotel found the mural behind a false wall near Grand Hall. It was unveiled to the media this week.

Plans call for the three panels of the mural to be cleaned up and mounted over the hotel registration desk, just off the Grand Hall.

Officials with Lodging Hospitality Management, the company renovating Union Station, said they had been looking for the mural since architects saw it in old photos. The general manager, Tim Cooper, said the panels were stored there decades ago.

The mural is a large scene of the riverfront in the late 19th century. It includes the Eads Bridge, three steamboats and a locomotive pulling a train along Wharf Street.

"This is an exciting discovery of a mural that tells a wonderful story of the growth of commerce in St. Louis," said Jonathan Kodner, a St. Louis gallery owner.

Union Station was once the nation's second-busiest passenger station. It last served Amtrak trains in 1978.

The building was saved and reopened as a mall in 1985. Many of the mall shops are now vacant.

St. Louis County-based Lodging Hospitality Management bought the hotel and half-empty station for $20 million two years ago. The company is renovating the 539-room hotel, now a Hilton Double Tree, as well as refinishing the Grand Hall, adjoining rooms and the retail area.

Management also wants to bring excursion trains and private cars back to the station's two remaining tracks, and put a restaurant back in the space once occupied by a Fred Harvey restaurant off the midway.

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