Thirteen Mayoral Portraits Restored, On Display at City Hall
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Thirteen Mayoral Portraits Restored, On Display at City Hall

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A joint effort started in 2012 by Mayor Angel Taveras, Council President Pro Tempore Terrence M. Hassett, City Clerk Anna Stetson, and the Division of Archives, helped raise more than $25,000 to restore 13 mayoral portraits - surpassing the original $10,000 goal for the restorations.

Funds included small individual contributions, two successful grants, and a fundraiser hosted at GTECH headquarters that generated over $10,000 in donations to support the project. The fundraiser featured Mayor Taveras and two former mayors, Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and Joseph Paolino Jr.

Several Irish cultural organizations, along with Dr. Donald Deignan, provided funds to restore the Patrick J. McCarthy and Edwin McGuinness portraits. McGuinness was the city's first Irish Catholic mayor and McCarthy the first foreign-born Irish mayor.

"The mayoral portraits represent an important part of our city's heritage," said Mayor Angel Taveras. "As the caretakers of these precious artifacts, we must make every effort to ensure that they are preserved for future generations."

Councilman Hassett stated, "I am deeply thankful for all the individuals and organizations that have shown their support for this project." He highlighted the work of Bob Vincent, senior vice president of corporate affairs at GTECH, for his support and fundraising assistance for the project, as well as the staff of the City Archives Division: City Archivist Paul Campbell, Deputy Archivist Claire Bestwick, and Reference and Multimedia Administrator Nathan Lavigne.

"Over 170 years ago, the City Council recognized the importance of appropriating funds to commission the portrait of Providence's first mayor, Samuel Bridgham. The tradition continued, adding 31 more paintings to the collection," Hassett said. "Today the City's commitment to these priceless cultural and historical artifacts is reaffirmed, and the public can view each and every one on display at City Hall."

City Clerk Anna Stetson, who oversees the archives division, said, "The work of the City Archivist and his staff to raise awareness about this collection helped generate contributions and grants to make the restoration of the final 13 portraits possible. Providence has a rich history, and the public can now see part of that history on display through the mayors' portraits."

According to City Archivist Paul Campbell, several paintings in the collection required only light conservation and cleaning, while others had suffered significant damage. A number of the portraits had been stored in the archives for decades. Now, all 32 mayoral portraits - from Samuel Bridgham who served as the city's first mayor from 1832-1842, to Joseph R. Paolino Jr. who served from 1984 to 1991 - are on display at City Hall.

The portraits cover a 150-year period and are the most complete collection of mayoral portraits in the United States, according to Campbell. Framed biographies of each mayor will be installed adjacent to the portraits.

The restoration work was carried out by art conservator Alice K. Miles. A R.I. School of Design graduate, she has 30 years of experience both as an artist and conservator. Miles performed her restoration work in the hallway of the fifth floor of City Hall to allow the public and students to view her work and ask questions about the restoration process.

Funds were also raised to support the restoration of Ebenezer Knight Dexter's portrait, painted in 1841. Upon his death in 1824, Dexter--a successful merchant--made a bequest to the City, the proceeds of which make up the Dexter Donation Fund.

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