Monument of the month: Darien Town Hall murals
Did you know?
There are many historic monuments within the Town of Darien. Among them is a mural depicting a Tory raid that took place 236 years ago during the end of July.
This is one of two dramatic murals on either side of the stage depicting the Tory raid in 1781. To the left is a rendering of the shocking historical event when Darien’s original meetinghouse was under attack by Loyalists during a Sunday service. "During the attack upon the Middlesex Meeting-House, Sally Dibble Defies the Royalists in Defense of a Young Boy," the legend reads.
Its companion to the right is a continuation of the scene with the legend: "Sunday July 22nd, 1781, Capture of the Rev. Moses Mather & His Flock by Tory Raiders from Lloyd’s Neck, LI."
The two murals convey how relations between the Colonials and the British — and their sympathizers — could become brutish as war waged on. Rev. Mather and 50 members of his congregation were captured during the siege and imprisoned in New York.
These murals were painted in the 1930’s as part of an art program funded by the Federal Government. Most were done under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a program launched under the supervision of the Treasury Department on Dec. 8, 1933. The purpose of the PWAP was "to give work to artists by arranging to have competent representatives of the profession embellish public buildings." Artists were told that the subject matter had to be related to the "American scene". The PWAP program ended in June 1934. The project was succeeded by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration.
In 1933, the Guild of Seven Arts was one of Connecticut's most active and well-run art organizations. It was run by Virginia Drew, head of the Merrill Business Schools headquartered in Stamford, who was an active figure in local art circles and a firm supporter of the artists within her community. Three of the PWAP’s 16 regional offices were in Connecticut, but many Fairfield County towns, including Darien, were part of the New York Division. Juliana Force, New York's Regional Director, extended her authority into Fairfield County to obtain qualified mural painters for New York projects. Yet Drew's political savvy resulted in immediate commissions for Darien and Stamford.
In Darien, approximately 11 artists, Robert Pallesen, James Daugherty, Arthur Gibson Hull, Remington Schulyer, Loran Wilford and William J. Schaldach among them, were employed to create artwork, most of which was done in the town’s schools (today’s Town Hall building was the town’s High School in 1934).