115 Year Old Hidden Mural Preservation

This photo comes from a circa 1907 commercial building in the small town of Okanogan, WA. My husband and I purchased the building in late 2021 and discovered this beautiful hand-painted mural on canvas hidden behind plaster walls, preserved but unseen for over a hundred years. The mural has two sides, each face is 60 ft long and 20 ft high and spans both the northern and southern walls. The building was originally home to the Okanogan Commercial Club, a precursor of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1915 it was turned into a theater and the mural was displayed. Famed Western photographer Frank Matsura played in the Okanogan County Band on the stage. The mural was encased in lathe and plaster three years later as the live theater venue became a movie theater, The Paramount.

We would love to have this priceless piece of Okanogan County history restored to its former glory so we can display it proudly for generations to come.

When we set out on this journey we had no idea how expensive it would be! We were fortunate to contract with a world-renowned leading expert in historic theater restoration, Wendy Waszut-Barrett of Historic Stage Services and were given a three-phase approach to preserving the Okanogan murals for future generations to enjoy.

The first phase is currently in process. This phase immediately stops the deterioration and preserves these artworks for future generations. Each mural needed to be immediately removed from the leaking building and preserved for temporary storage off site until further restoration work could be completed.

Phase One is nearly complete and fully funded. It included rapid removal, preliminary cleaning, encapsulation, and storage. Current stabilization includes removal of wallpaper backing, cleaning of painted composition, repair of all fabric damage (rips, punctures and cut openings), consolidation of all loose pigment, and preparation for future hanging. This phase will end with the documentation, rolling and storage of murals in a climate-controlled area.

Phase one has taken three weeks total - 1 week for removal and storage; 2 weeks for cleaning and stabilization prior to storage and cost $30,000. This does not include any building alterations to protect the mural before it was successfully taken down from the walls, where it had lain dormant for over 100 years. The elements, pests and time were all against us as we raced to remove the murals in the early winter of 2022.

Phases Two and Three are estimated to cost $25,000 each for a total additional investment of $50,000.

Phase Two involves in-painting and over-painting on mural areas exhibiting extreme paint loss. This phase isn’t intended to refurbish the entire composition but restore areas with severe paint loss, leaving some damage documenting its history, such as contact with plaster that oozed between lathe when the murals were first encapsulated.

Phase Three involves relocating and installing the murals in their new home. This includes their removal from storage, installation into a new venue, and any necessary restoration due to minimal damage that occurred during storage or transit to the new facility. This phase also includes text panels which will accompany the new art exhibit, detailing not only the history and manufacture of the panels, but their significance within the context of American History and popular entertainment.

In the meantime, while we waited for our opportunity to preserve the murals, our team went to work restoring the century-old building which housed the murals. The building, renamed the Timm Building after our family, will be opened as The Red Light Bar in mid 2023. It will serve, as it has many times in the past, as a community gathering point, activity hub and all important local nighttime entertainment with music, dancing and great people. Due to the shift in scope and purpose of the building, the murals must find a home somewhere where they will be taken care of, enjoyed and preserved for generations to come.

We are planning at least 3 art galas and open houses to showcase the murals in the Red Light Bar before it goes to its new, permanent (and as-of-yet, undecided!) home. Stay tuned on FB for the events.

We are asking for the world's help one more time to get this project over the finish line. We can't put into words how much we appreciate the outpouring of help, words of encouragement and kindness this past year. You've all been amazing and we can't wait to finish the preservation of the murals, open The Red Light Bar and get to meet everyone.

Please help us restore and preserve this important piece of history. You can follow our journey on Facebook at Red Light Bar Okanogan.

Donations (1.2K)

  • Holger Koslowski
    • $50 
    • 1 yr
  • Carey Hunter
    • $100 
    • 1 yr
  • Joel Davidson
    • $25 
    • 1 yr
  • Mary-Jo Marshall
    • $10 
    • 1 yr
  • Anonymous
    • $100 
    • 1 yr


Lisa Timm
Okanogan, WA

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