Story of the Murals
In 1936, a group of Iowa artists were hired by the US Treasury Department to paint murals for the Federal Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. These murals, like the building they occupied, started as products of the Great Depression, but they have since become so much more.
Contemporaries of Grant Wood, these talented artists brought to life sweeping images of law and culture in Iowa. Commissioned through the Treasury Relief Art Program, they were hired to remind Americans of the inspiring beauty of their country and heritage during a time most needed. Then, in 1951, controversy over the images of justice depicted on the murals compelled officials to paint them over. For more than 50 years the murals have been lost to the cultural heritage of Cedar Rapids, until now…
History lost... And restored.
After being uncovered and briefly examined in the early 60’s, the murals were once again painted over for what was thought to be the final time. Since acquiring the building in 2011, the City of Cedar Rapids has been on a journey of restoration, and has sought to make these historic images once again available to the community. The murals have now been fully restored to the public.
2017 - 2018 Mural Lecture Series
A special lecture series, “History Restored: Law & Culture in City Hall Murals” will be offered in 2017-2018 on the historic murals. The community is invited to learn more about these compelling images and the unique cultural heritage they portray by watching video recordings of these presentations.
Opening of the Midwest – Highlighting the North Wall
Speaker: Mount Mercy University Archivist Kristy Raine
Originally presented November 8, 2017
Inherited Culture – Highlighting the South Wall, restored in 2013
Speakers: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Executive Director Sean Ulmer; and Fine Art Conservation Laboratories President Scott Haskins
Originally presented December 13, 2017
American Civilizations – Highlighting the East Wall, restored in 2015
Speakers: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Executive Director Sean Ulmer
Originally presented January 10, 2018
Contemporary Life – Highlighting the West Wall, restored in 2015
Speaker: Legion Arts Mel Andringa
Originally presented February 15, 2018
The North Wall
“The Opening of the Midwest”
Painted by Francis Robert White | Restored in 2011
2015 History Restored Lecture Series: Click here to view the North Wall 2015 Lecture
The scenes on the north wall depict the evolution of the Midwest from native roots through the industrial revolution. At the center, flanking the former judges bench and anchoring the images is a heroic scene of workers building the nation through strength, determination, and will.
The South Wall
Painted by Harry Donald Jones | Restored in 2013
2015 History Restored Lecture Series: Click here to view the South Wall 2015 Lecture
The south mural contains several scenes of archeological sites and Mesoamerican culture. The theme of “Inherited Culture” pays homage to our nation’s roots—both scientific and artistic—and the interest the artist had in contemporary Latin American art. The mural contains one of the most intriguing images in New Deal art: an homage to the Mexican artist, Jose Clemente Orozco, shown at work on one of his most famous murals.
The East Wall
Painted by Everett Jeffrey | Restored in 2015
History Restored Lecture Series: Click here to view the East Wall 2015 Lecture
Two compelling scenes make up the majority of the east wall. The first depicts a scene of vigilante justice on the wild frontier and the rise of law and order. The second depicts a scene of witchcraft and superstition, followed by a depiction of the rise of modern medicine. Newly unveiled, the mural was restored amidst some mystery—newspapers included in a scene above the door were discovered missing, with no known historic record of their removal. The scene has since been restored, based on historical images of the original scene.
The West Wall
Painted by Donald Glasell | Restored in 2015
The West Wall, painted by Donald Glasell, was the final mural to be unveiled to the public. The images beneath the surface reveal scenes of heroic civil servants as they carry out their duties in their community. Scenes include firefighters, police officers, and leaders in government. The West Wall also depicts strong images of women assuming leadership roles in workplace positions.
Special thanks to...
Restoration of the East Wall was made possible by generous contributions from:
- Dee Ann McIntyre
- McIntyre Foundation
- National Endowment for the Arts
- State Historic Resource Development Program
- United Fire Group
The Council Chambers are located on the 3rd Floor of City Hall, 101 1st Street SE.
For more information contact the City Manager's Office at 319-286-5080