As the renovations continue and you rediscover the main floor of our library, we hope you look up–you’ll see three unique murals. Hung high over the east wing (sit back in one of our new lounge chairs!) are murals by two artists who called White Plains home: Edmund F. Ward and Stanley P. Klimley. That’s Klimley on the left standing in front of his mural when it was still in the lobby of the White Plains Hotel (image courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society). Check out information on the artists and their works below!
White Plains resident and artist Stanley P. Klimley was president of the White Plains Civic Art Commission when the builder of the White Plains Hotel asked him to create a mural for the lobby of the new hotel in 1965. After two years of working on the eight-by-twelve foot canvas in his garage on Garretson Road, Klimley attended the opening of the hotel on May 7, 1967 and revealed his mural. Mayor Richard Hendey regularly came to sit and watch Klimley paint in his garage. Neighbors and other White Plains residents served as models for almost every figure in the mural. The mural depicts five historical events in White Plains history. The upper left panel depicts the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the courthouse in White Plains on July 11, 1776. The lower left panel depicts patriots hiding weapons from British troops under the floor of the Oakley Tavern. The upper right panel shows the meeting between English settlers and Weckweeskeck Indians where a deed was signed on November 22, 1683. The lower right panel depicts patriot spy Enoch Crosby in action. The central panel depicts Washington addressing troops prior to the Battle of White Plains in October 1776. The inscription by Mayor Hendey reads: “White Plains, where American history, tradition and enlightened civic pride combine to make a worthy city in which to live and work for people of every race, color and religion.”
Klimley, like Ward, was a prominent commercial artist whose illustrations filled the pages of America’s most prominent magazines before photography became dominant. When work for magazines dried up, he turned to advertising. His 2001 obituary in the New York Times described him thus: “A talented artist and prominent illustrator. A kind man with a sharp wit, zest for life, intellectual depth and perpetual curiosity. A man for all seasons.” Dorothy, a White Plains native who was Klimley’s wife from 1940 to her death in 1978, was also a successful commercial artist and teacher. She founded the “picture lending service” for patients at the White Plains Hospital, served in many civic organizations, and was an active feminist who worked with the National Organization for Women and the Westchester Civil Liberties Union.
Edmund Franklin Ward was born in White Plains and was a very active citizen in the areas of arts and politics. He attended the Art Student’s League in New York (where he was roommates with Norman Rockwell) before beginning a successful career illustrating the most popular magazines of the early 20th century. He was an elected official in the county government for over a decade and served on the library’s Board of Trustees for 30 years. Ward’s illustrations of the American West are some of his most well-known works outside of White Plains.
“Hudson Valley Legends” won him the Bicentennial Award at the National Art Show of the Hudson Valley Art Association at the Westchester County Center in 1976. Ward painted it the year of America’s Bicentennial, filling the painting with references to Washington Irving’s most famous works, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, and thereby created more material for Americans’ historical imaginations.
There are two versions of the Battle of White Plains by Ward–one large, one small. The smaller version was created first as a commemorative stamp in 1926 at the suggestion of a committee headed by Dr. Jason S. Parker of White Plains. After receiving designs from numerous artists, Ward’s was chosen and brought to J. Mayhew Wainwright, who represented White Plains in the US House of Representatives. With his approval, Ward’s design was turned into a two cent stamp and the Treasury Department printed blocks of 25 at a meeting of the International Philatelic Society. Ward completed the larger oil painting of the same image a few years later and the City of White Plains purchased and hung it in the Post Office on Grand Street.
In 1979, the painting was rescued from the decommissioned post office building and in 1984 brought to the library through the efforts of “Re-Ward: The Committee to Save the Edmund F. Ward Mural.” The mural is sometimes incorrectly referred to as “Hamilton at the Cannon,” but Ward maintained the image contained no specific historical figures to reflect the committee’s original goal of honoring common soldiers. An article from the December 5, 1983 Reporter Dispatch gives some insight into how the myth of “Hamilton at the Cannon” came to be and how Ward felt about it.