Forgotten Mural Found 80 Years Later

March 27, 2014


When a newly-renovated hall opens at the University of Denver next month, students will get to see a piece of campus history that has been covered up for more than 80 years.

Over the last seven years, conservators have been restoring an 85-year-old mural that once outlined the stage of a theater in Margery Reed Hall.

Denver artist John Edward Thompson painted the mural while he was teaching at DU. The school paid him more than $6,000 for his work at the time.

The school says 18 months later, a new theater director painted the mural and rest of the theater black. At the time, Thompson was having lunch with a friend.

“Someone else came by and told him that his mural was being painted over,” said Tom Ward, an artist working to restore the mural. “So they ran down (or drove) down here and there was a big confrontation and apparently it almost came to fisticuffs.”

Tensions cooled, though and the mural stayed black for the next 75 years. After Thompson died, his estate donated some of his work to the school. An art researcher started looking into Thompson’s history in 2006, heard about the mural and tracked it down.

Crews spent the next seven years securing the funding and restoring the mural.

Margery Reed Hall has since been converted into a business school, and the theater will serve as a meeting area where speakers can address a crowd. The theater is set to open in April.