A beloved local piece of art is receiving a full restoration and will soon find a home that befits its historical significance.
The mural was one of two at one-time Waterbury mainstay Arvad’s Grill & Pub; the other, which depicted Waterbury in the 1930s, was carefully removed in 18 pieces when Arvad’s closed in 2016. It was given to the Waterbury Historical Society, and now is displayed a few blocks down the street at the historic train station.
However, the owners of Allium — the restaurant that succeeded Arvad’s — decided to paint over the upstairs bar scene mural.
Maryanne Larkin, who owns the building and who ran Arvad’s for nearly 30 years with her husband, Jeffrey Larkin, was upset by the loss of the mural.
“It’s a historical piece. It has so many past and present Vermonters who have done great work in our state, in our community. It was a slap in the face to the community that he didn’t care about the historical piece of it,” she said.
However, when Allium closed suddenly in the summer of 2018, the opportunity arose to remove and restore the second mural.
David Nelson, who owns Mulligan’s Irish Pub in Barre and three McGillicuddy’s sports bars in Chittenden County, is opening a fourth McGillicuddy’s in the former home of Arvad’s. He allowed Larkin and artist Sarah-Lee Terrat to first remove the paint covering the mural, and the removal of the mural itself.
Using a citrus-based cleaner, Maryanne Larkin removed the top layer of paint, revealing the artwork underneath. Next, the mural was removed from the wall in five sections. Currently, the pieces are located in space donated by the Larkins, where Terrat is doing the painstaking work of retouching places where there was damage.
“It’s been removed, very carefully and painstakingly,” said Nelson, who expects to open up his new restaurant in early May. “We’re going to keep a framed photo of the mural in the restaurant to keep the history alive.”
“I’m grateful that the owners of McGillicuddy’s were patient and gave us the time to take out the mural,” Terrat said.
The mural itself, painted in the early 2000s, depicts a fictional gathering of famous Vermonters throughout the state’s history, from Calvin Coolidge to Bernie Sanders.
The Larkins told Terrat, “Do a mural, and do whatever you want,” Terrat said. “When does a muralist get the opportunity to do that? So, I had a party, and they were all welcome and it didn’t matter what century they came from.”
Like Nelson, Terrat is also looking at a May deadline to complete her restoration work. Upon completion, the mural will hang at the Vermont History Center, which is located in Barre and is operated by the Vermont Historical Society.
“I’m happy the mural has found a home and it will live on and will be seen by people,” Nelson said. “I think the historical society will be a great place for that.”