Saving the Julien Binford Mural, A Piece of Americana
Julien Binford (1908-1997) was an American painter, particularly well known for his murals. At least two of his works were Federal Art Project murals. Towards the end of WWII, Binford lived and worked in New York City. His photograph appears in the lower right hand corner. Binford had been commissioned by LIFE Magazine to paint the activities going on in the New York harbor during the war. These paintings were featured in LIFE Magazine.
In the 1950’s Binford was commissioned by the Greenwich Savings Bank to paint a mural that would grace the walls of its Chelsea branch at 14th Street and 6th Avenue. The result was the magnificent “A Memory of 14th Street and 6th Avenue” mural, an awesome 9 feet high and 110 feet long. The mural depicts life on 14th Street during the late 19th century. It is a creative panorama of life in the late 1800’s when people still traveled in horse-drawn carriages and elevated trains rose above the sidewalks. The horse-drawn carriages compete with women carrying parasols for the right of way and crowds congregate on sidewalks where vendors hawk their wares.
“A Memory of 14th Street and 6th Avenue” remained in its home long after the Greenwich Savings Bank moved out of that location and a branch of HSBC moved in. In 2017 the HSBC bank building was slated for demolition to be replaced by condominiums and retail space. This development is currently in process. Through the combined efforts of our group, Gemini Rosemont, Councilman Corey Johnson’s office, Google NYC, Jamestown LP, and the Hudson Guild, we were able to successfully save the mural, which is painted on canvas, from destruction during the demolition process. Save Chelsea and Councilman Johnson’s office are currently working together to find a permanent new home for this historic and beautiful work of art.
In the interim, the Binford mural must be properly cleaned and prepared for safe storage or it will not survive. Professional art restorers must remove dust and loose debris from the surface of the mural, re-roll the canvas pieces paint side out onto 36-inch diameter Sonotubes and interleaf the canvas pieces with smooth Tyvek. All funds will be used for cleaning and storage, any excess funds above final cost will be applied to the full restoration and creation of this public art piece.
This restoration campaign has been endorsed by:
Chelsea Reform Democratic Club
Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA)
Historic Districts Council
Prof. Jon Ritter, New York University
Society of Architectural Historians, New York Metropolitan Chapter
Courtesy Municipal Art Society of New York